Sports Direct's Mike Ashley to review agency worker conditions
In a statement issued today, the Sports Direct board said: “Sports Direct has sought to address questions relating to its employment practices on a case-by-case basis directly with the enquirer, but it has become evident that by doing so various parties have chosen to ignore the facts provided and have continued to present an unfair portrayal of the company's employment practices.
“Sadly, it is also now clear that some others have chosen to rely on this portrayal when making public statements about Sports Direct, rather than obtaining information directly from the company before commenting.
“The board takes its responsibilities towards all the company's stakeholders, be they staff, contactors, suppliers or customers, extremely seriously. Without our commitment to our staff and the implementation of a performance-led culture which encourages success, there is no way Sports Direct would have been able to grow from a single sports shop over 33 years ago to the global retailer it is today.
“The board believes Sports Direct is a major contributor to all the communities and countries in which it operates; not least, since Sports Direct became a public business in 2007, it has contributed over a billion pounds in tax to the UK exchequer.”
The company went on to say that it was issuing the statement to set out the key facts about the terms and conditions of Sports Direct's workers in the hope that “unfounded criticisms will cease”.
The statement continued: “Sports Direct directly employs a number of staff in the Shirebrook warehouse. The remaining workers in the warehouse have contracts with one of two main agencies the company uses to staff the warehouse. These contracts are on an agreed (between the worker and the agency) contracted hours basis. No Sports Direct employees are engaged in the Shirebrook warehouse on a 'zero hour' contract, and the main agencies have confirmed to us that none of their workers are engaged on a 'zero hour' contract.
“The two main agencies that Sports Direct uses to provide workers at Shirebrook supply workers to hundreds of companies nationally including many retail warehouses. The agencies use the same core terms and conditions for all their employees (totalling c. 35,000 across the UK), with some limited localised variations. A review of all the terms and conditions applicable to the agency workers supplied to Sports Direct (including, inter alia, the operation of the strike system) will be undertaken, and we will be considering implementing appropriate additional variations once that review is completed.
“Neither agency workers nor employees are subjected to 'naming and shaming' via publication of a league table identifying individuals by name. The company uses an anonymous ranking system to monitor performance. An individual's unique number (known only to the employment agencies, the company and the worker) benchmarks staff against the anonymised data of their peers. Individuals can check their performance, should they wish to do so.
“The warehouse tannoy is not used to 'harangue' or 'name and shame' staff; the tannoy is used for logistical reasons, for example, to redeploy staff to other areas of the building or to let staff know that a truck is waiting for stock to be dispatched.
“Sports Direct does not penalise its staff for being ill. Sanctions may be applied if workers fail to follow the company's reasonable sickness absence notification procedures, which are in line with industry best practice. The company is not aware of any occasions on which sick children have not been able to be collected from school by their parents. Sports Direct allows staff time off to look after dependants in such circumstances.
“Neither Sports Direct nor the agencies it uses discriminate in favour of or against any applicant or worker on the basis of nationality or for any other reason. Both the company and the agencies with which it works are equal opportunities employers. There are workers of various nationalities, including local British citizens, currently working in the warehouse. Neither the company nor the agencies distinguish between workers of different nationalities; Sports Direct and the agencies value the contribution of all workers equally.
“Sadly, all companies have to be cognisant of theft from warehouse operations. As such, there is a need for some security measures to be in place at Shirebrook. One simple and sensible way of managing this issue is to ensure that workers do not wear the clothing brands stocked in the warehouse. This is not an unusual practice in many retail companies' warehouse operations. There are of course numerous other brands that staff can easily wear.”
Sports Direct said it was not alone in using 'zero hour' contracts and that a significant number of casual workers had moved from 'zero hour' terms into permanent employment when the circumstances allowed.
It added: “Sports Direct 'zero hour' terms of engagement include holiday pay, and sick pay is payable where the relevant criteria for statutory sick pay are met. Sports Direct 'zero hour' terms do not prohibit a casual worker seeking work from another company.“
It also explained that virtually all casual retail workers are eligible for bonus payments in addition to their contracted hourly rate of pay. It said over 80% of retail casual workers achieved a performance-related bonus in November 2015.
The statement continued: “Sports Direct always seeks to improve and do things better, listens to criticism and acts where appropriate. With that in mind, as noted above, 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. We expect him to start that work in the New Year.”
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