Wages paid on pre-paid credit cards that carried a £10 charge to use. Zero hour contracts leaving many workers without secure employment. A brutal 'six strikes and you're out policy' penalizing employees for toilet breaks, stopping for a drink of water or talking to workmates. Pregnant women so scared to go on maternity leave that one gave birth in the toilet.
These are just some of the employment practices that have earned Sports Direct’s Derbyshire warehouse the unenviable tag, Gulag’.
After a great deal of bad publicity Sports Direct’s employment practices have been exposed in the media. The highlight coming when these practices were aired during a Parliamentary Committee session in which Steve Turner and Luke Primarolo described ‘a culture of fear’ that pervaded the Derbyshire warehouse.
At its AGM yesterday angry shareholders moved to depose Keith Hellawell, company chair. However, this was averted as Mike Ashley and the board rescued the chair by giving him their backing. Following the meeting an independent shareholder spokesman claimed that Mike Ashley, Sports Direct owner, was contrite.
Contrition, a state of feeling remorsefulness and penitence, is usually coupled with a degree of humility, especially towards the sinned against. So how did Mike Ashley display his act of contrition?
Well, while on a tour of the warehouse following the AGM he went through the routine search procedure. In front of the TV cameras and his assembled workforce, most on minimum wage, Ashley produced from his pocket and threw into the possession tray a thick wad of £50 notes. Also, Ashley had earlier carried out a presentation entitled “Time to Change”, shortly after which snarled at a Unite representative: "It is probably your fault that we are in this mess".
These are not the actions of a contrite person who is seriously going to engage in positive change.