Thursday, 8 September 2016

Gulag owner blames Unite

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.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

'Brexit means Brexit"

“Brexit means Brexit!” Thus spake Theresa May. Thus, we now know the lady is not for turning against the wishes of the great unwashed, which in itself is a novelty for a Tory PM.

When asked about the complexities of the UK’s exit from the EU a political commentator likened our departure to a multi-dimensional chess game. A game played with the futures of industrial sectors, businesses and individual rights at stake.

Many Brexit voters are still euphoric over their recent victory. Some are claiming vindication of the ‘Leave’ vote arguing that the ‘Remain’ predictions of doom and gloom have not materialised. The housing market is steady, indeed still on the rise in London and some other areas of the country; employment numbers remain steady.

Others remain confident we can exit the EU while then being allowed back into the single market without any strings attached. If they don’t we could start imposing heavy tariffs on EU goods. How would Mercedes feel about paying a 40% tariff to sell their cars in the UK?

There are then the overly optimistic who dismiss the need for European imports. We don’t need foreign cars. No, we’ll build our own car plants and manufacture our own vehicles.

The very idea that there are capitalists in the UK who would invest in the manufacturing sector is quaint. Capitalists in the UK have become risk adverse, look at the way the banks came running to us, the taxpayers, to bail them out in 2008.

It is too early for any real analysis of the Brexit vote to be made. However, as time elapses and if uncertainty prevails, foreign investors, especially in vehicle manufacturing and the financial sector, will become jittery. Our economic future will unfold over the next few months.