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Support Sport Direct’s workers

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Sports Direct, War on Want, day of action, 3 September, support workers on precarious contractsNow is the time to demand an end to precarious contracts.

Sports Direct, which has been making headlines over the last year for the appalling working practices both in its warehouses – where most of its workers are Eastern European migrants – and shops, has its annual shareholder meeting on 7 September.

Now is a good time to take action for migrant and women workers’ rights and against the precarious contracts that mean workers feel unable to challenge abuse in their workplace.

Earlier this summer, an investigation by MPs found Sports Direct was treating their workers as commodities not human beings.

With MPs expecting answers from the company before the end of September, the pressure is on for Sports Direct to change its ways.

Major investment groups, not usually concerned with workers’ rights, are now getting behind a resolution tabled by Unite the Union to ask at the shareholders’ meeting for an independent inquiry into working conditions at Sports Direct, which is the UK’s largest sports retailer.

Sports Direct is emblematic of the economy-wide shift to precarious contracts that means as many as 4.5 million workers are on some form of insecure contract, unable to plan their lives or support their families as their hours and schedules are unpredictable.

And other employers will be watching to see what happens.

War on Want is campaigning to stop Sports Direct and help stop a race to the bottom where all workers will lose out.

Migrant workers make up the majority of workers at Sports Direct’s warehouse; many are recruited in Eastern Europe.

They often face the worst working conditions, including precarious contracts, which can mean the fear of losing future work leaves them unable to challenge abusive bullying behaviour.

If you have no fixed-hours contract but run from hour to hour you cannot raise any work issues if you want more hours of work – and pay.

It is also the same for women workers, who have to shut up regardless of the abuse and discrimination they are forced to endure.

MPs on the Women’s and Equalities Select Committee recently found that rising discrimination against pregnant women and mothers at work was partially explained by the increasing numbers of women who are on precarious contracts.

Agency workers, such as the majority of Sports Direct warehouse staff, are not entitled to the same maternity protection as other workers.

And one woman worker who went in to work at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse while in labour, for fear of losing future work. She ended up giving birth in the toilets.

Now is the time to demand an end to precarious contracts.

If we stop Sports Direct in its tracks, and demand MPs stand with migrant workers and act now to end precarious contracts, we can build a society where everyone, including women and migrant workers, is assured of dignity at work, a living wage and the option of protection by a trade union in their workplace.

The precarious nature of work in the UK – and its consequences – has been on the rise since the mid-1970s, corresponding with a weakening of trade unions, deregulation and free market economics.

Forty years ago, Asian women workers challenged abuse in their workplace, Grunwick, a photo processing plant in Willesden, in North West London.

They decided to fight against the racist and sexist abuse they suffered in the workplace and for the right to have a trade union represent them.

War on Want, together with workers and trade unionists up and down the country, supported their struggle in what was one of the longest and most bitter labour struggles in British history.

Now we must support Sports Direct workers.

Please take whatever action you can.

Here are three simple ways you can add your voice to all those calling for change:

1 – Join a demonstration at a Sports Direct store near you. Actions are taking place on 3 September throughout the UK. There is a full list of the day’s actions here.

2 – Join the great #SportsDirectShame high street re-brand (something you can do on your own). Learn more and order your tags here.

3 – Email your MP to demand they end precarious contracts and stand with migrant workers.

4 – If you have taken the action already, please share it on Facebook or Twitter to invite your friends to do the same.

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