Almost half of Sports Direct shareholders voted to oust controversial chairman Keith Hellawell over failures to improve working conditions, as Unite carried out nationwide protests yesterday (September 6) against the firm.
In a vote at Sports Direct’s AGM, held at the company’s infamous Shirebrook warehouse site, 47 per cent of shareholders opposed his re-election.
Hellawell, who used the AGM to attack critics of Sports Direct’s use of exploitative employment practises, has now been saved three times by owner Mike Ashley’s block vote.
Unite East Midlands regional officer Luke Primarolo said, “Hellawell survived as chairman by the skin of his teeth.
“The vote shows the strong feeling of discontent amongst shareholders about how the company is run at board level.
“It’s time Sports Direct stopped acting as if it’s business as usual and creating an illusion that everything is ok – the reality is it’s not.
‘Time for a change’
“It’s time for a change of chairman and for how the workforce is treated.”
He said, “We say casual workers, you say zero-hours contracts. It is still a legal form of employment in this country.
“While that still is a legal form of employment we will choose if we wish to continue with that form of employment.
“A very large proportion of our workers are happy to maintain that flexibility.”
Investors at the AGM called for an independent inquiry into Sports Direct’s employment practises – which have been described as “Victorian” – to try and improve the firms plummeting stock value.
‘Sick to death’
Despite the pressure, the demand was rejected by Hellawell, who said he was “sick to death” of negative reports about the company.
Sports Direct’s refusal to keep its word on zero-hour contracts just piled more bad publicity on the company, however.
In Parliament today, Jeremy Corbyn used Prime Minister’s Questions to condemn the company’s behaviour and asked Theresa May to do the same.
He told MPs, “At last year’s Sports Direct annual meeting, Mike Ashley personally pledged to ban the use of zero hours contracts in his company.
“A year on, they’re still exploiting insecure workers with zero hours contracts. Will the Prime Minister join me in now demanding that Mr Ashley honours his words and ends zero hours contracts in all his companies?”
May avoided mentioning Sports Direct by name, instead stating that the Tories taken action over zero hours contracts.
Unite assistant general secretary, Steve Turner said, “Theresa May had the chance today to tell workers loud and clear that the Tories condemn the abuse at Sports Direct.
“She not only failed to take that chance she refused.
“The Tory party – never on the side of working people will be on the wrong side of history for we will win justice for these workers.”