Sports Direct boss Ashley to review agency worker terms
SPORTS Direct boss Mike Ashley is to oversee a review of all agency worker terms and conditions at the company.
It follows criticism of the retail giant's pay and employment practices, including the use of zero hours contracts, under which staff don't know how many hours they will work from one week to the next.
The Unite union - which had accused Ashley of 'shameful Victorian work practices' - has mounted a campaign against the company, holding demonstrations and briefing MPs in Parliament earlier this week.
But Sports Direct defended itself against the criticism on Friday, saying it 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 statement said.
"The board takes its responsibilities towards all the company's stakeholders, be they staff, contractors, 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 said it was making the statement to counter "unfounded criticisms" of its employment practices. MPs have called for an investigation into allegations that workers were paid below the minimum wage and were subjected to body searches.
Sports Direct insisted it "always seeks to improve and do things better, listens to criticism and acts where appropriate".
Its statement added: "With that in mind, 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."
There are around 4,300 agency workers employed in Sports Direct's warehouse. The company employs around 28,000 staff across the UK and Europe.
Unite regional officer Luke Primarolo said: "Shameful 'Victorian' work practices have no place in modern Britain and this review should not deter HMRC from investigating the non-payment of the minimum wage to agency workers at Sports Direct.
"Unite has repeatedly raised concerns with the board and Mike Ashley directly about the use of 'Victorian' work practices.
"We look forward to participating fully with Mike Ashley's review and to working with Sports Direct to eradicate the mistreatment of workers."