Sports Direct has announced it is to hold a fully independent review into its working practices and corporate governance.
The Shirebrook based sports retail giant has made the move following pressure from shareholders at its annual general meeting this month.
The company which has been accused of allowing Victorian workhouse conditions and or paying its workers below the minimum wage has already commissioned a preliminary by law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC).
Sports Direct’s founder Mike Ashley was forced into looking into his company’s practices after the Chad told how woman gave birth in Sports Direct toilets because she was too scared to call an ambulance, and it set in motion the a huge snowball which has led to a Government inquiry.
In an interview on BBC Breakfast today, Mr Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United Football Club, acknowledged the problems which had been highlighted at the sportswear firm, but said he had been unaware of what had been happening.
He sadi: “You would be surprised how little I knew about what was going on and that’s really where the failing was,
“How do I know what a night shift does from 12 at night to seven or eight in the morning? I don’t work there on Saturdays and Sundays and there are lots of hours I am not there.
“Should I have known more? Yes. Was I aware of the some of the things that were going on? Absolutely not.”
Sports Direct has also announced that a workers’ representative on the board will be elected by staff.
It added that “it is anticipated that all staff directly engaged or employed by Sports Direct may vote”.
Sports Direct has already reacted to criticism of its working practices by pledging to abolish zero-hours contracts for its directly employed casual retail staff.
However, almost all staff at the firm’s controversial Shirebrook warehouse are agency workers and are not eligible.
rade Union Share Owners (TUSO) have welcomed the announcement
The announcement follows a resolution calling for an independent review that was tabled at the company’s AGM earlier this month by TUSO, and supported by a majority of independent shareholders.
TUSO Chair Janet Williamson said: “This is good news for Sports Direct workers, especially young workers who make up a large part of their staff but too often get a poor deal at work.
“The board should now consult both shareholders and trade unions in finalising the plans for the independent review. Trade unions representing workers at Sports Direct stand ready to work with the company to ensure a successful future that is fair for its staff.”
The Trade Union Share Owners (TUSO) is a group of investors representing the financial assets of the labour movement, including the TUC staff pension fund, the Unite staff pension fund, the UNISON staff pension fund, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation.