BBC programme will explore working conditions at Sports Direct, first revealed by the Chad

A BBC documentary is set to air this evening following up on stories broken exclusively by the Chad about operational practices at Sports Direct in Shirebrook.

By Andy Done-Johnson
Monday, 5th October 2015, 12:00 am
Shirebrook protest rally at Sports Direct.
Shirebrook protest rally at Sports Direct.

The Inside Out East Midlands investigation speaks to staff at the company’s national headquarters where Chad revealed in January 2014 that police were called in after a migrant worker gave birth to a baby boy in the staff toilets on New Year’s Day.

The news outraged politicians and union leaders who raised concerns about health and safety practices at the Shirebrook-based company, owned by billionaire businessman and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.

In a special investigation, Chad revealed that MPs and union chiefs were calling on the firm to urgently review its working practices and allow unions onto the site.

Chad also revealed:

- Sports Direct operated a draconian ‘strike system’ where staff would be sacked if they committed a series of misdemeanours such as turning up late or ringling in sick

- That around 3,000 of the largely migrant workforce were all employed on zero-hour contracts

- That staff had to undergo a degrading search before they were allowed to leave for the day

- How worker Guntars Zarins was rushed to hospital after taking ill at the site, because he was terrified of receiving a strike

- How Shirebrook residents recently marched on the firm’s HQ, blaming the retailer for an increase in anti-social behaviour in the town.


Speaking last year, Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale said: “I have spoken to people who work there and I know that staff are in fear for their jobs on a daily basis.

“Mike Ashley is making hundreds of millions of pounds and he’s allowing people to work in these appalling conditions.

“In my opinion, Sports Direct need to either accept the working environment in this country or get out of the market.”

Also speaking in early 2014, Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner told Chad that unions need to be allowed into Sports Direct and called for all employees to be on staff, and not employed through employment agencies.”

He added: “This is a stranglehold and it needs to end. There should be democracy for the people who work at Sports Direct.

“I have written to Mike Ashley on many occasions and he doesn’t even acknowledge the letters.

“He has to tolerate some unions because all of his players at Newcastle are members of the Professional Footballers’ Association, which is a union, so why can’t we have a union at Sports Direct?”

Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero also urged Sports Direct workers to contact her with their concerns, and wrote to Mike Ashley demanding talks.

In the programme, the BBC will reveal that a total of 76 ambulances or paramedics were dispatched to the distribution centre’s post code between January 2013 and December 2014, with 36 cases classed as “life-threatening”, including chest pains, breathing problems, convulsions and strokes.

The information comes from a Freedom of Information request the BBC made to East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Sports Direct say its own records show 24 ambulance calls were made direct from the warehouse. It also said it aims to provide safe working conditions for all warehouse staff which comply with applicable employment and health and safety legislation. The company added that they take any allegation that they may have breached health and safety or employment regulations very seriously.

The programme will run on BBC 1 at 7.30pm tonight (Monday October 5)