Sports Directs work practises at the firm’s Derbyshire warehouse are currently being investigated by MPs, after a string of allegations concerning working conditions. Conditions for Workers have been described as Gulag, Workhouse and Dickensian. Under questioning Mike Ashley Sports Direct boss, has so far admitted, workers were paid below the minimum wage, that their policy of docking staff 15 minutes pay for being one minute late is “unacceptable” and that there are “issues” with some working practices.
3,000 staff, are on temporary agency contracts, Unite Officials representing 200 direct employees, gave evidence ahead of founder Mike Ashley.
In the warehouse, a tough disciplinary system, the use of controversial zero-hours contracts and time-consuming staff security searches, have created a `Culture of fear’ according to Unite Regional Officer Luke Primarolo.
“People are scared because they are working under a system where they know they could lose their employment at any moment,”
Staff were subjected to a “strike system” of rigorous searches, and surveillance operated for misdemeanours including taking time of sick, after six strikes staff were automatically dismissed. Former workers said some staff were “too scared” to take sick leave because they feared losing their jobs.
“When you have people under that much fear they come into work ill and that creates a significant health and safety risk,” said Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary of Unite.
A BBC investigation in 2015 found ambulances were called out to Sports Direct’s complex at Shirebrook, in Derbyshire, 76 times in two years.
The adverse publicity has had a negative impact on the company, Sports Direct is viewed by many as a ‘Toxic Brand’, Shares plummeted by 45% in the past 12 months, sales continue to fall.
Peter Linstead, a barrister at Tanfield Chambers and a specialist in employment litigation, said such measures were common in retail and many shops had similar schemes in place.