The use of touchpads with happy and sad faces to gauge worker satisfaction at Sport Direct’s warehouse in Shirebrook was branded an ‘emoji con’ by Unite today (September 1).
Unite understands that finger recognition technology is being used, with workers asked to touch a happy or sad emoji as they clock in to indicate whether they feel they are treated with respect.
According to Unite, workers selecting the sad face are asked if they are sure. If they are, pressing the sad emoji again results in the worker being called in by management to discuss why they pressed it.
In a warehouse where approximately 3,500 workers are on insecure temporary agency contracts, the revelation throws into question Sports Direct’s claims that the majority of warehouse workers feel they are treated with respect.
Unite believes such claims are ‘bogus’ because the survey lacks anonymity and workers are fearful of being labelled a ‘trouble maker’ and losing their job.
Campaigners will hit the streets of Nottingham tomorrow (September 2) ahead of the Sports Direct’s annual general meeting in Shirebrook next week. Using emojis, members of the public will be asked whether they think temporary agency warehouse workers and Sports Direct store staff are treated with respect. The emoji themed event outside Nottingham’s Sports Direct store on Clumber Street (NG1 3GA) starts at 11am.
“There are still approximately 3,500 agency workers at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse, the vast majority on contracts that guarantee no more than 336 hours a year,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.
“Put yourself in their shoes. Would you risk having hours withheld, possibly losing your job and being called in by management because you indicated dissatisfaction with your work environment?
“It’s nothing short of an emoji con and a bogus exercise to gloss over past failures and some of the problems which still persist in the warehouse,” he argued.
“With reports from agency workers of crowded aisles, defective warehouse equipment and products staked dangerously high, we know that health and safety is still a major cause for concern.
“We also know that meagre promises to move temporary agency workers onto permanent contracts with Sports Direct are not being met and that the process is often down to who you know rather than length of service or ability.
“Gimmicks like using emojis do not escape the fact that Sports Direct’s reliance on thousands of insecure agency workers still poses a reputational risk or that many are still owed money for non-payment of the minimum wage,” Turner added.
“Sports Direct still has a long way to go to clean its act up and risks the charge of ‘business as usual’ until it makes temporary agency workers direct permanent employees.”