Unite also organises demo outside company’s AGM in Derbyshire

7105_SportsDirect_Meme_X_3 copyUnite members dressed as Dickensian workers are today protesting outside Sports Direct’s AGM to demand an end to ‘Victorian’ work practices at the retailer’s Shirebrook warehouse and that the company pays a real living wage of £7.85 per hour.

The protest is part of a national day of action outside more than 40 Sports Direct stores across the UK and comes amid a shareholder revolt over the company’s governance and employment practices resulting in calls for the Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell to stand.

The AGM, which is being held the Sports Direct’s headquarters in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, is also home to its main warehouse where working conditions have been likened to a Victorian ‘workhouse’.

Shareholders, including the Trade Union Share Owners group, are expected to grill the under fire chair and board over the conditions which see agency workers on zero hours contracts working in fear of a ‘six strikes and you’re out rule’. Workers also face being ‘named and shamed’ over a tannoy for not working hard enough.

Unite, which represents permanent workers at the site, estimates that as many as 3,000 workers are eking out a living in such conditions through two employment agencies – Best Connection and Transline. Under the ‘six strikes and you’re out of a job’ rule, agency workers can get ‘strikes’ for taking too long in the toilet, talking too much or even having time off for sickness.

Keith Hellawell and the board are also expected to come under fire over the ‘rampant’ use of low paid zero hours contracts in its UK stores with Sports Direct now accounting for a fifth of all such contracts in the retail sector.

Unite regional officer Luke Primarolo said: “Low paid agency workers on zero hours contracts are being subjected to working conditions that are more akin to a Dickensian workhouse than a FTSE 100 company’s warehouse.

“These Victorian era conditions combined with Sports Direct’s rampant use of zero hours contracts across its stores, only adds to the charge that Keith Hellawell and the board are running Sports Direct like a ‘Backstreet outfit’.

“With question marks over corporate governance and dire employment practices, we would urge shareholders to join Unite and the Trade Union Share Owners group in sending a message to the board by opposing the re-election of Keith Hellawell.

“It’s time for Sports Direct to restore dignity and security at work by paying the real living wage and putting staff on permanent contracts.

“It’s time too for the Tory government to stop trying to make it harder for trade unions to stand up to abusive practices such as those at Sports Direct through its ideologically driven Trade Union bill.”

What you can do to help

1. Please help by signing the Unite petition to David Forsey, Chief Executive of Sports Direct. Tell him to stop these ‘draconian’ working practices and to employ all staff on secure contracts with a decent living wage.

2.  Support the National Day of Action on 9 September against Sports Direct draconian work practices. Find an action near you.

3. By campaigning together we can win decent work for all – join us. Find out more about Unite’s Decent Work For All #FightFor5 campaign here.

4. Not in a union? Then join Unite – Your union. Your voice.

Together, we can put pressure on Sports Direct to do the right thing and treat their staff properly.
Unite helpline for Sports Direct workers
Unite helpline for Sports Direct workers

If you work in Sports Direct and are worried about workplace abuses don’t stand back and let this happen to you. Talk to us – we’re here to listen, we’re here to help – and we’re on your side.
Call the Unite helpline now on 0333 323 1441.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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