300 Sports Direct workers file legal claims

Submitted by claudiaobrien on Wed, 04/02/2015 - 10:52

4 Febuary 2015

The workers were excluded from their bonus scheme because they were on zero-hours contracts. The scheme paid out about £160m in shares in 2013, but only to “permanent” workers.

Lawyers acting on behalf of 30 of the workers, who have been continuously employed by the company for over five years, have sent a letter to Sports Direct claiming over £1m in compensation. The claims average about £36,000 per person, with the largest claim totalling £100,000, the Guardian reports.

Claims for the rest of the workers will be lodged in due course.

Legal firm Leigh Day, representing the workers, has called on Sports Direct to confirm that the workers who still work for the company will not face disciplinary action for filing the claims, as it would be unlawful.

Sports Direct employs over 90% of its staff of zero-hours contracts – around 20,000 workers. Last year, a legal action by former employee Zahera Gabriel-Abrahem forced the company to make the poor terms and conditions of the contracts clear to staff, and to explicitly inform them of their entitlement to statutory sick pay and holiday pay.

In the words of Elizabeth George, a barrister at Leigh Day who represented Gabriel-Abrahem;“Zero-hours workers are not second-class workers. They have the right to be treated fairly and with respect. They have the right to take holidays and to be paid when they take them. They have the right to statutory sick pay. They have a right to request guaranteed hours.”

Ed Miliband has also addressed the issue; “People [are] asking why they are on zero-hours contracts while those at the top get away with zero tax”, he said. “This zero-zero economy is a symptom of a deeply unequal, deeply unfair, deeply unjust country; a country I am determined to change.”

It was noted at the time that while the acknowledgement of employment rights abuse is a positive development, there was an absence of any strategy of address it. Keith Ewing and John Hendy commented; “The solution lies only in raising wages and equalising incomes, and the only way by which that will be done is by revitalising collective bargaining between trade unions and employers.  Inequality levels have grown primarily because collective bargaining coverage has collapsed. While well-intentioned, living wage campaigns are a feeble alternative calculated to fail. Until Labour is prepared to take steps to empower trade unions and restore the universal coverage of collective bargaining, there will no meaningful solution to the problem of low pay and zero hours contracts.”

For more information on zero-hours contracts Re-regulating Zero Hours Contracts is available now.

To find out more about collective bargaining, the IER’s Reconstruction After the Crisis: A Manifesto for Collective Bargaining is available for purchase.

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