Sports Direct like 'a Victorian warehouse'

Sports Direct criticism

Sports Direct have been under a lot of scrutiny for a while now, thanks to the way their staff have been treated.

A parliamentary inquiry has added to all this, saying the Mike Ashley has been running the company like a Victorian workhouse, making a business from a model that treats workers “without dignity or respect".

The report by the business, innovation and skills (BIS) select committee said that the Sports Direct boss had been using "appalling working practices", which used "workers as commodities rather than as human beings".

That's pretty damning, isn't it?

Iain Wright, the chair of the committee, said: "Whistleblowers, parts of the media and a trade union shone a light on work practices at Sports Direct, and what they revealed was extremely disturbing."

"The evidence we heard points to a business whose working practices are closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable high street retailer. For this to occur in the UK in 2016 is a serious indictment of the management at Sports Direct and Mike Ashley, as the face of Sports Direct, must be held accountable for these failings."

"It seems incredible that Mike Ashley, who visits the Shirebrook warehouse at least once a week, was unaware of these appalling practices. This suggests Mr Ashley was turning a blind eye to conditions at Sports Direct in the interests of maximising profits, or that there are serious corporate governance failings which left him out of the loop in spite of all the evidence."

Of course, Ashley appeared before the committee in June, which was entertaining in its own way.

After speaking to him, workers from Sports Direct, union reps, and agencies that supply a lot of staff, the committee concluded that the company's "success is founded on a business model that enables the majority of workers in both the warehouse at Shirebrook and at the shops around the UK to be treated without dignity or respect".

It added that Sports Direct's "six-strikes-and-you're-out" policy is a "punitive measure, which denigrates the workers at Sports Direct and gives the management unreasonable and excessive powers to discipline or dismiss at will."

There was also "no convincing reason" why Sports Direct keeps such a huge workforce on so many temporary contracts, "other than to reduce costs and pass responsibility."

Of course, Mike Ashley has already said while giving evidence, that his company have broken the law by not paying staff the minimum wage.

Sports Direct are reviewing the way they do things, and have promised a pay-rise to staff.

A spokesperson for Sports Direct said: "We will study the contents of the committee's report very carefully. It is our policy to treat all our people with dignity and respect."

"We are pleased to see that the committee has recognised Mike Ashley's commitment to engage in addressing any shortcomings in the working practices at Sports Direct."

If you'd like to look at the report, click here.

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