22 September 2016
UNITE has called on Sports Direct to work with the union in the process of putting together an independent review into its employment practices.
The shamed corporation was forced to agree to the review after shareholders backed the union’s calls for it at this week’s Annual general Meeting.
Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has previously blamed the union for the company’s problems after a successful campaign by the workers’ organisation seriously eroded the business’s reputation.
Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary of UNITE, said: “We offer every assistance in the next steps in Sports Direct’s journey towards fair employment, including with this review, and call on Mr Ashley to recognise the benefits of working with the union during this process as an essential way to build faith with the workforce.”
The company is known to use exploitative zero-hours contracts has been taken to court by UNITE for discrimination and unfair pay.
Ashley, who travels by helicopter and private plane, recently tried to dodge responsibility for the meagre wages he offers his workers in an interview with BBC Breakfast.
“I do like to go by plane and by private plane. People will say: ‘How can you have a plane when your workers are on the minimum wage?’ I say: ‘I don’t set the minimum wage.’ If the minimum wage should be the the living wage then the government, who set the rules, should set it at the living wage,” he said.
He also claimed that he did not know about the conditions under which his workers were forced to work – with one warehouse described by parliament as being like a “Victorian workhouse” – and said he had given a cleaning lady a £80,000 bonus.
The company has also been forced to end its use of zero-hours contracts and draconian conditions in its warehouses, such as its ‘six strikes’ policy, in which workers are sacked if they commit six ‘misdemeanours’ including ‘extended toilet breaks’.
Steve Turner called on the government to get behind the rising tide against zero-hours contracts.
“Increasingly, businesses are recognising that [these contracts] … have no place in the modern workplace and are bad for workers, bad for business and bad for the economy. The government should now show leadership and follow the lead of government’s like New Zealand and ban zero hours contracts.”