From the TUC

Working at Sports Direct hurts your health as well as your pay packet

16 Aug 2016, By

This week we’ve had proof that working at Sports Direct is bad for your pay packet, after the union Unite won a million pounds in back pay for workers who had received less than the legal minimum wage. But now there’s proof that it’s bad for your health too. Looking at the figures Sports Direct publish in their own annual report lets us see that the company has a serious problem with workplace injuries.

Across the sportswear retailer as a whole, there were 2.7 injuries for every 100,000 hours worked – a rate that’s nearly twice the sector average.

But it’s in their infamous warehouse operations where things get really bad. The well documented punishing workloads and high pressure take their toll on staff, and there’s a shocking 6.6 injuries per 100,000 hours worked. That’s off the charts – nearly three times as dangerous as working in agriculture, one of the least-safe sectors for workers.

The Trade Union Share Owners group are trying to keep the momentum going for change in Sports Direct, by tabling a motion for shareholders at Sports Direct’s September Annual General Meeting, calling for the board to commission an independent review of the company’s employment practices.

TUSO work with fund managers who invest workers’ pension savings, to use their investments for social good, and they are writing to major funds to gather support for the motion.  

Pension funds represent huge sources of investment funding, and unions are keen for them to play a bigger role. Interests are closely aligned, as a company whose work practices are as damaging as those at Sports Direct are also posing a long term risk to investors, in terms of claims against the company and in reputational damage.

Disappointingly management have chosen to recommend that shareholders oppose the resolution when it comes up for a vote at AGM. As Unite’s Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner said:

“The Sports Direct board has missed an opportunity to give investors and shareholders the reassurance that they are 100% committed to dealing with well documented workplace abuses by opposing this resolution. There are serious question marks over both the independence and appropriateness of any review conducted either by the company itself or a legal firm which is known to have given legal advice and representation to Sports Direct in the past”

Sports Direct are under a lot of pressure at the moment, as their financial results take as bad a hammering as their reputation. This is going to be a critical vote for UK corporate governance and investors’ response to the resolution will be watched closely.