Thousands of workers employed at the Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire can soon expect to receive a share of an estimated £1 million for non-payment of the minimum wage, one of the UK’s largest unions has announced.
The deal, secured by Unite and backed by 96% of its members employed by Sports Direct at Shirebrook, follows an admission by billionaire entrepreneur Mike Ashley of non-payment of the minimum wage at a recent hearing of the House of Commons Business Committee.
Thousands of direct employees and agency workers will now receive backdated wages for unpaid searches at the end of shifts, estimated to be worth £1,000 for some employees.
Workers employed at the warehouse in Shirebrook were required to go through unpaid searches at the end of each shift, meaning they were effectively denied the legal minimum wage. Others were hit by draconian deductions to their wages for being as little as a minute late for a shift.
Agency workers employed through The Best Connection should start to receive backpay towards the end of August. But Unite says 1,700 Transline agency workers may only receive half the back pay they are owed, because of the firm’s refusal to honour its commitments from when it took over from Blue Arrow at Shirebrook in 2014.
[contextly_sidebar id=”eYq07etiA3cz8geIlQqYISR3kcL7tikJ”]Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This is a significant victory in Unite’s ongoing campaign to secure justice and dignity at work for workers at Sports Direct and demonstrates the importance of modern trade unions in Britain today.
“But investors and customers alike should not be fooled into thinking that everything is now rosy at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse. Transline, one of the employment agencies involved, is disgracefully still trying to short-change workers by seeking to duck its responsibilities.
“Deep seated problems still remain regarding the use of agency workers with the behaviour of both Transline and The Best Connection further jeopardising Sports Direct’s battered reputation.
“Sports Direct needs to make Transline face up to its responsibilities and seriously confront endemic abuses within its employment agencies.”
Both Transline and The Best Connection had previously been warned of being in contempt of parliament, after MPs accused them of lying in a published report about employment practices at Sports Direct.
The two agencies supply over 3,000 workers to work for Sports Direct in its Shirebrook warehouse. Transline were stripped of a license to supply workers to the food industry in 2014.
Steve Turner added: “Mike Ashley and the Sports Direct board should be under no illusions. The charge of ‘Victorian’ work practices will continue to weigh heavily on Sports Direct until it moves long standing agency workers onto direct, permanent contracts and weans itself off its reliance upon zero hours contracts.
“Unite will seek to engage constructively with Sports Direct where possible and urges the retailer to continue dialogue with us so that we can assist it in meeting Mike Ashley’s ambition of being an exemplar employer.”