Campaigners will be outside Chesterfield magistrates’ court tomorrow (October 14) highlighting Sports Direct’s ‘shameful’ treatment of workers and poor corporate governance, as criminal proceedings start against the company’s chief executive David Forsey.
The case, which is expected to be heard at Chesterfield magistrates’ court tomorrow, is the result of criminal charges relating to the collapse of Sport Direct’s fashion retailer USC.
49-year-old Forsey is accused of failing to notify authorities of plans to lay off warehouse staff in Scotland, around 200 of whom were given just 15 minutes notice by the USC’s administrator in January that they were losing jobs. The charges relate to an offence contrary to section 194 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
Brought by the UK Insolvency Service, the charges are part of an investigation into the conduct of the retailer’s directors and come amid mounting concern over ‘Victorian’ work practices at Sports Direct’s main warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.
According to an investigation by BBC’s Inside Out, ambulances were called to the site on 76 occasions over a two-year period, 36 of which included ‘life-threatening’ incidents.
The retailer has also come under fire for its use of low paid zero hour contracts and agency staff at the Shirebrook site where workers work in fear of a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ rule.
Under the rule, workers can receive a strike for a range or ‘offences’, including taking too long in the toilet, chatting too much or being off sick.
“These criminal charges are the latest in a long line of major concerns over the conduct of Sports Direct, ranging from the retailer’s poor corporate governance to its use of ‘Victorian’ work practices,” said Unite regional officer Luke Primarolo.
“A pattern is emerging where workers are held in contempt and low paid agency staff are subjected to working conditions more in line with a ‘Dickensian’ workhouse than a FTSE 100 company’s warehouse,” he added.
“Sports Direct and its board need to clean their act up to avoid further controversies and continuing charges of being run like some ‘back street’ outfit.
“The retailer needs to restore dignity and respect at work by paying the real ‘living wage’ and putting staff on permanent contracts,” Primarolo went on to say.
“It’s time too for the government to stop trying to make it harder for trade unions to stand up to abusive employment practices and employers, who seek to bend the law, by dropping its ideologically driven Trade Union bill.”
Unite has launched an online petition calling for an end to ‘draconian’ working practices and an end to Sports Direct’s reliance on zero hours contracts.