Sports Direct chairman defends treatment of workers at Shirebrook site

Sports Direct headquarters at Shirebrook.
Sports Direct headquarters at Shirebrook.

Shirebrook retailer Sports Direct has sought to defend its treatment of workers over claims it puts staff at its warehouse through “rigorous” searches and pays less than the minimum wage.

An undercover investigation carried out by the Guardian Newspaper, to which the Mansfield Chad contributed, has found that workers are left out of pocket by the company’s practice of forcing workers to undergo partial strip-searchers at the end of each shift.

Undercover reports claimed that on average workers at the site - of which around 80 per cent are on zero-hour contracts - were forced to stay for an extra 75 minutes per week, for which they were not paid, to be searched.

This forced their hourly rate down from the national minimum wage of £6.70 to around £6.50 per hour, which the newspaper said saved the company millions of pounds per year.

But speaking to shareholders, Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell said: “A number of issues were raised by shareholders at our AGM which we have addressed, for example the inconvenience experienced by some warehouse workers from the logistics of the security process when exiting the warehouse.

“Following a review the process has been streamlined which has led to a reduction in waiting time.”

He added that no warehouse workers are on zero hours contracts, but added casual workers in its shops “find the flexibility offered by these arrangements very useful”.

“To be clear, no warehouse workers are on ‘zero hour’ contracts, all have contracted hours with the agencies.”

The investigation also claims that workers were harangued by tannoy announcements telling them to work faster, and were banned from wearing over 800 branded items on site.

Mr Hellawell made the remarks after the retailer suffered heavy share falls after posting disappointing figures earlier today (Thursday).

Sports Direct was down 13 per cent, as figures showing a 12 per cent plunge in sales at its premium lifestyle division overshadowed a 3.6 per cent rise in underlying half-year profits.

Shares were down 83.8p to 581.8p following concern over its interim revenues performance, with overall sales eking out growth of 0.1 per cent in the six months to October 25.

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