Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley reviews conditions for thousands of agency warehouse workers

Sports Direct, Britain’s biggest sportswear retailer, responded to critics of its employment practices yesterday with

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley reviews conditions for thousands of agency warehouse workers

The review is to be overseen by its billionaire founder and majority shareholder, Mike Ashley.

The FTSE 100 company, under fire from media, investors and politicians, also hit back at what it called “unfounded criticisms”, issuing a long list of rebuttals.

A report by the Guardian newspaper, last week, said that protracted security checks of workers at Sports Direct’s main warehouse, in Shirebrook, central England, meant that some were effectively paid less than the legal minimum, an allegation denied by the company.

On Monday, the firm was criticised by MPs in parliament, and a government minister said it would face sanctions if it flouted wage laws.

“The board has agreed that Mike Ashley shall personally oversee a review of all agency-worker terms and conditions, to ensure the company does not just meet its legal obligations, but also provides a good environment for the entire workforce,” Sports Direct said.

The scope of the review will include the operation of a “strike” disciplinary system.

The Guardian had said staff were warned they would be sacked if they received six black marks, or “strikes”, over a six-month period, for offences including “errors”, “excessive/long toilet breaks”, “time wasting”, “excessive chatting”, “horseplay” and “using a mobile phone in the warehouse”.

In November, the Shirebrook facility used about 4,300 agency workers.

Sports Direct has a global workforce of 28,000, of which 20,000 are employed in the UK.

Ashley, who owns 55% of Sports Direct’s equity and currently serves as the firm’s deputy chairman, will start the review next month.

Starting with a single sports shop 33 years ago, Ashley has developed a business with 400 stores across the UK and operations in 20 other countries.

He is also the owner of football club, Newcastle United.

Sports Direct’s share price has fallen 18% over the last month, following the publication of disappointing first-half results.

The business is valued at £3.47bn (€4.77bn).


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