The denigration of workers, wage payment systems of dubious legality, a disregard for health and safety law and employment agencies of questionable probity are among the catalogue of abuses uncovered at Sports Direct’s vast Shirebrook warehouse a damning new report confirms today (Friday 22 July).
The report, published by the influential House of Common’s Business Select Committee, follows months of campaigning by Unite the union and others to shine a spotlight on the endemic bad practices at the retail warehouse.
Unite termed the mistreatment as ‘pay packet robbery on an industrial scale’ pointing to a ‘culture of fear’ at the warehouse with workers scared to speak out against wage abuses, or report the frequent calls to the emergency service to deal with unwell workers. One woman worker, terrified of losing her job, gave birth in the toilets because she was too afraid to take time off.
Reacting to the report, Unite said that this was `absolutely not the last word, this can only be the beginning’, in the fight against the mistreatment of working people sadly all too common in the UK today.
The union linked much of the blame for worker abuse to the rapid growth in insecure agency labour in the modern workplace. It called again for Sports Direct to prove that it was serious about improving working conditions by replacing the temporary contracts for workers with more secure employment.
While the committee urged the owner Mike Ashely to demonstrate that we was improving the management of the business it recognised that Mr Ashley is now taking steps to work with Unite to address its concerns for the workforce.
However, the committee reserved particular scorn for the agency employed by Sports Direct to supply workers. Unite had revealed that the Transline agency was responsible for the introduction of the pre-paid cards whereby hundreds of workers had to pay a £10 administrative charge for a card to access their wages.
In a damning passage in the report, the cross-party committee said that the evidence given by the Transline agency `cast doubt on (their) probity’… suggesting that the agency had `deliberately misled the committee …. which could be considered a contempt of parliament’, warning the agency that it has two weeks to explain their evidence or face further action.
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