A report by the Business, Innovation and Skills committee accused, Sports Direct, one of Europe's biggest retailers of not treating its workers like humans. It said the firm's business model could "become the norm in Britain".
Committee chairman Iain Wright said evidence heard last month by MPs suggested Sports Direct's working practices "are closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable High Street retailer. It's seems incredible that Mike Ashley, who visits the warehouse at least once a week, was unaware of these appalling practices." Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley must be held accountable for failings at the company. "This suggests Mr Ashley was turning a blind eye to conditions at Sports Direct in the interests of maximising profits or that there are serious corporate governance failings which left him out of the loop in spite of all the evidence.
The committee's report says: The agencies' six strikes policy - whereby an employee is dismissed if they receive six strikes - "gives the management unreasonable and excessive powers to discipline or dismiss at will". The way the business model is operated involves treating workers "as commodities rather than as human beings." It said “No convincing reason” was given as to why Sports Direct maintains a workforce of more than 3,000 warehouse workers on short-term, temporary contracts, “other than to reduce costs and pass responsibility”.
Luke Primarolo, the regional officer at Unite, said: “From our perspective, these issues stem from the majority of the workforce being employed precariously, either through agency or zero-hours contracts. The road to dealing with this has to involve moving the workforce on to fixed-hour, permanent contracts. Sports Direct is by no means the only company to engage people on such terms. What this highlights is a wider issue of real work today. The government needs to seriously consider what legislation needs to be put in place to protect people from exploitation.”
This includes companies such as Uber, which this week has been taken to an employment tribunal by a group of drivers who argue they should be recognised officially as workers at the company and entitled to a range of benefits; parcel delivery giant Hermes, whose self-employed couriers complain of low pay, no employment rights and the threat of losing their work at short notice; and employment agencies specialising in recruiting cheap labour from abroad.