‘Send home Shirebrook workers on full pay’ – Unite tells Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley

Controversial Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley should send home the Shirebrook workforce and pay them for the duration of the coronavirus virus period, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 26 March).

Unite has written today to the Sports District management outlining a catalogue of examples where the company has ignored the government’s guidelines for work places during the national emergency.

There are an estimated 3,000-4,000 workers at the Derbyshire warehouse, a key component in Mike Ashley’s retail empire. Earlier this week, Sports Direct had to back down over plans to keep its high street shops open, following a public backlash.

In her letter, Unite regional officer Cheryl Pidgeon said: “We have reports of workers being threatened with no jobs if they self-isolate when they have underlying health concerns. 

“We have reports of people being told not to bother about just having two people in the car when they drive to work– but to come in ‘in fives’.

“We have photographic evidence of lack of products available for workers to wash as per government guidelines.

“We have reports of workers not staying two metres apart and photographic evidence of this.

“People are today still using scanners with their fingers and being searched closely.

“The products that many people are working on are not critical to the nation at this moment in time – we have photographic evidence of this also. There are many, many scared workers at the warehouse.”

“These are decent human beings who have served Sports Direct loyally in difficult conditions on low wages and many are on non-permanent contracts. They are not fodder to make mass profit at the expense of their own health and safety, and that of their family. The work at the warehouse is not critical as per government guidelines. 

“Many of the community are ex-miners with severe chest health problems – by not allowing workers to go home and stay safe you are putting local communities at risk.

“For the sake of the employees, the local community and the business reputation please allow workers to go home, stay safe and pay them their usual wages without loss of money.

“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of all workers at the warehouse – ask Mike Ashley, for once, to do the right thing by the workers – put them and not profit first.”

Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel said: “When the history of the coronavirus comes to be written, Mike Ashley’s already besmirched reputation will be in shreds, unless he does the right thing and send his Shirebrook workers home on full pay for the duration of the coronavirus emergency.

“Ashley has become fabulously rich on the backs of low-paid workers – now is the time that he should rise above the ruthless pursuit of profit that has pockmarked his controversial career – the nation is watching.”

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