More than 30 carol singers turned up to target a Nottinghamshire Sports Direct store this morning (December 12) as part of a national campaign to highlight what the union calls ‘scrooge like’ working practices.
Members of Unite and church choirs from across the region descended upon the Sports Direct store at St Peter’s Retail Park in Mansfield to sing about the ‘exploitation’ within the company - as well as calls for HM Revenue and Customs to investigate allegations that the company gets around paying the national minimum wage.
We reported earlier this week on a major investigation found the retailer’s Shirebrook warehouse didn’t pay employees for the time it takes each day to search them on their way out of the building.
Likening working conditions in the warehouse to a ‘gulag’, the investigation also found that workers were being docked wages for arriving as little as a minute late to work.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “ ‘Gulag’ working conditions have no place in 21st century Britain. The Sports Direct board should be ashamed that its workforce is treated in such an appalling way.
“Unpaid searches and the docking of pay are potentially illegal and a scandal that could cause Sports Direct reputational damage. We are currently consulting with lawyers and would encourage Sports Direct workers at Shirebrook to contact Unite to pursue potential legal action and damages.
“Even Scrooge changed his ways. It’s time Mike Ashley did the same.”
“In the meantime HMRC should not shrink from doing the right thing and should investigate Sports Direct as a matter of priority.”
And so members of Unite have co-ordinated with choirs across the country to deliver a message to workers at Sports Direct Stores across the country.
And Luke Primarolo, the East Midlands officer for Unite, co-ordinated with churches and members of the public from Mansfield to sing a specially-written carol with the hope of getting this message across.
He said: “We want Sports Direct to change the way it’s treating its workers and to put them on fixed hour permanent contracts and to pay at least the real living wage.
“We have requested many meetings to talk about their treatment and at the moment we are being ignored.”
Unite has also been asking people to sign a Christmas card to the company, asking it to give ‘dignity and respect’ to workers.
Luke added: “We feel that they really should be giving their workers dignity and respect.”
“Even Scrooge changed his ways. It’s time the owner, Mike Ashley, did the same.”
Reverend Keith Hebden, from St Mark’s Church, Mansfield, attended the event, along with members of other churches from across the area.
He said: “We need justice, which means making sure people are paid properly, making sure people have secure work and that they are treated with dignity.
“We’ve heard rumours of sexual exploitation, we’ve heard about babies being born there and we’ve heard about people being too scared to have days off.
“There are 20,000 people around the country working for Sports Direct and over 4,000 people locally.
“We need the work here... but we need it to be good work - not jobs that exploit people.”
The series of flashmobs took place across the country - and follow a similar choral flashmob which hit the retailer’s Chesterfield branch in late November.
To watch the video and learn the words to the hymn, here.
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