Billionaire's firm under attack
Ashley’s Sports Direct ‘like Victorian workhouse’
Billionaire retailer Mike Ashley has allowed his Sports Direct business to operate like a Victorian workhouse which does not treat its workers with dignity and respect, according to a committee of MPs.
A 37-page report from the Commons’ business, innovation and skills select committee, accused Mr Ashley – who is also a minority shareholder in Rangers Football Club – of treating his workers as commodities rather than as human beings.
The committee found a policy of “six-strikes-and-you’re-out” in its Derbyshire warehouse, where workers could be sacked if they received six black marks over a six-month period.
This was considered a “punitive measure, which denigrates the workers at Sports Direct and gives the management unreasonable and excessive powers to discipline or dismiss at will.”
Warehouse staff were paid below the national minimum wage as a result of bottle-necks in search queues.
Temporary staff were promised permanent employment contracts in exchange for sexual favours.
Following a long investigation prompted by internal whistleblowers committee chairman, Iain Wright, said: “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.”
Mr Ashley had initially refused to give evidence to the committee but finally appeared (pictured above) in June where he said such practices were unacceptable.
Sports Direct has a controversial merchandising deal with Rangers which has been subject to legal challenge.
A spokesman 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.”