Labour MPs and Britain’s largest union have condemned abusive and ‘dickension’ work practices at the under fire retail giant Sports Direct, which have left a dad in a wheelchair because he was “too scared to phone in sick”.
The MP for Ashfield, Gloria De Piero and Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner have called on Sports Direct to end abusive work practices that “have no place in this day and age”, including the use of controversial zero hours contracts.
Gloria De Piero MP said: “I’ll never forget my constituent Liga Shaw coming to see to tell me about her Dad, Guntars Zarins, who worked at the warehouse in Shirebrook.
“Mr Zarins collapsed with a blood clot on his brain and is now in wheelchair because he was too scared to phone in sick in case he got a mark against his name.”
The comments were made during a briefing hosted by Unite, who represent agency staff working at the depot, on the same day as Sports Direct issued a profits warning.
Unite says a review into the treatment of agency staff working at the depot lacks independence and warned that it could be viewed as a sham without trade union involvement.
The Guardian newspaper recently reported how workers were subjected to “rigourous” compulsory searches and were routinely paid less than the national minimum wage, leading to calls for a HMRC investigation.
Working conditions at the depot have been previously likened to a “gulag”, leading to Unite regional officer Luke Primarolo calling on Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley to work with the union to “restore dignity to the workplace”.
An investigation by Channel 4 Dispatches in 2015 exposed how staff were left fearful of losing their jobs, and a BBC investigation revealed that ambulances had been called to the Sports Direct Shirebrook depot more than 80 times in just two years.
Luke Primarolo said: “Sports Direct needs to heed the call from MPs to end abusive work practices by putting agency workers on permanent contracts and paying the proper living wage.
“Today’s profit warning shows fundamental problems remain at Sports Direct from the use of zero hours contracts in its stores through to the treatment of agency workers at its main warehouse in Shirebrook.
“A continued failure by Mike Ashley to involve Unite and other independent bodies in his review of agency workers runs the risk of it being seen as a whitewash and adding to the growing unease of customers and the City.
“If Mike Ashley is to restore investor confidence and realise his promise of becoming a model employer, then he needs to start working with Unite to restore dignity to the workplace.”