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Sports Direct commit to paying all staff more than minimum wage

The Unite union described the Sports Direct atmosphere as being like “gulag working conditions”.
Roger Baird, Press Association

UNDER-FIRE retailer Sports Direct International has pledged to pay its employees above the national minimum wage from January 1, in a move which will cost the firm £10 million.

The group, which is controlled by Newcastle United FC billionaire owner Mike Ashley, said it will apply to casual workers as well as all directly employed staff.

It comes after the company faced allegations by the Guardian earlier this month about low wages, and claims that it forces compulsory unpaid 15-minute searches of staff as they leave, while also docking wages for clocking in just one minute late.

campaigners dressed in Victorian clothing protesting against Sports Direct's use of zero hours
Campaigners had criticised Sports Direct for its pay and use of zero hour contracts (Alex Britton/PA)

 

The probe prompted condemnation from the Unite union, which called the atmosphere at Sports Direct “gulag working conditions”.

Senior Labour MP Chuka Umunna described the retailer, which runs around 400 stores across the UK, as a “bad advert for British business”.

Business minister Nick Boles said HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) could take enforcement action over the non-payment of the national minimum wage at the business.

The Guardian sent undercover reporters to work at Sports Direct’s warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, last month and alleged that the group is so concerned about potential theft that it even asks staff to roll up their trouser legs and show the top of their underwear as part of compulsory searches.

The investigation also said staff are harangued by a public address system for not working fast enough.

The pay rise, announced in an interview with the Daily Mirror, is likely to most benefit casual workers in its stores and agency staff in its depot.

Ashley told the paper: “I’m making a New Year’s resolution pledge to the Daily Mirror – and I’m deadly serious. I want to see Sports Direct become the best high street retail employer, after John Lewis.

“I realise this is ambitious and it won’t be easy but I believe as a FTSE 100 or even 250 company we have a responsibility to set a high moral standard.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is and have notified the City we will be spending £10 million ensuring all employees are above the minimum wage.”

A branch of Sports Direct
About 28,000 people work for Sports Direct plus agency workers (Rui Vieira/PA)

 

There are about 4,300 agency workers employed in Sports Direct’s warehouse, while the company employs 28,000 staff across the UK and Europe.

Sports Direct’s latest half-year results showed a 3.6% rise in underlying pre-tax profits for the six months to October 25.

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