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Seems Sports Direct failed on promise

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Sports Direct, Flannels, zero-hour contracts, War on Want, Unite the UnionDespite promises, retailer is still advertising for casual workers with no guaranteed hours.

Imagine you are pregnant, and having started labour you still go to work for fear of losing your job.

This is not a story from an overseas sweatshop, it happened in the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

When precarious contracts mean workers can be fired at will, abuse is difficult to challenge.

It’s no coincidence that the workers facing these conditions are largely migrant workers from Eastern Europe and women workers face the worst abuse: with new workers at the Sports Direct warehouse being referred to as “fresh meat”.

War on Want is supporting Britain’s largest union Unite the Union’s Sports Direct Shame campaign to give the protection of a union to all workers and end the abuse of precarious contracts.

And Sports Direct has been accused of ‘business as usual’ this week.

Unite revealed that the controversial sports retailer had broken promises to offer its store staff guaranteed hours instead of exploitative zero hours contracts.

At its annual general meeting last year, accused of ‘Victorian’ work practices, Sports Direct pledged to offer guaranteed hours to all store staff in response to a review of its working practices by City law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.

But on the eve of this year’s annual general meeting an analysis of Sports Direct’s job site and store fronts showed that the retailer is continuing to advertise for casual workers with no guaranteed hours in Sports Direct and upmarket Flannels stores UK-wide.

In what is clearly breaking commitments made to the public, investors and shareholders, the job advertisements show that the retailer is still using zero hours contracts and not offering guaranteed hours, clearly stating: ‘This role has no guaranteed hours of work, hours of work can therefore vary from week to week and, as a result, there may be weeks when no hours of work are offered.’

The broken promise came just before this week’s annual general meeting at Shirebrook, where the future of the under fire Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell, hangs in the balance.

A string of investment groups plan to vote him out after expressing concern that not enough progress has been made on corporate governance and labour relations.

It also follows accusations of an ‘emoji con’ after Unite revealed last week that Sports Direct is using touch pads with ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ faces to gauge workers satisfaction.

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. Workers pressing the ‘sad’ emoji are called in for a meeting with management.

Commenting on this situation, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This revelation shows it is ‘business as usual’ at Sports Direct and casts doubt on just how sincere it is about cleaning up its act.

“Made amid great fanfare, Sports Direct’s commitment to wean itself off exploitative zero hours contracts and offer store staff guaranteed hours was meant to demonstrate the retailer was serious about dealing with abusive working practices.

“Yet one year on Sports Direct has been caught red handed breaking its promise to offer workers the security of knowing what hours they will work and how much they will earn from one week to the next.

“With the retailer advertising for causal workers in its Sports Direct and upmarket Flannels stores across the UK, it is clear this is no mistake, but a return to the bad old ways once the spotlight had gone away.

“It blows a hole in Sports Direct’s commitment to treat workers with dignity and respect.

“We would urge investors and shareholders to vote against the re-election of Sports Direct’s chairman Keith Hellawell and send a message to the board that ‘bad business as usual’ is unacceptable.”

And Owen Espley, Labour Rights campaigner, War on Want, said: “One year after making commitments to reform their act, Sports Direct continues to build its business on the use of exploitative precarious contracts.

“Whilst workers continue to face the constant threat of instant dismissal, the Government’s review into ‘modern employment practices’ failed to address the massive imbalance of power they create in the workplace.

“Precarious contracts are both a cause and an effect of discrimination in the workplace. Women and migrant workers are both more likely to be in insecure work and suffer their worst effects: bullying and abuse.

“The time has come to end precarious contracts.”

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