Employment practices at Sports Direct Contents

6Engagement with Trade Unions

62.Unite the Union has had recognition rights to represent directly-employed warehouse workers at Shirebrook since September 2008. Yet, according to their written evidence, only limited negotiations had taken place, with no meaningful negotiations despite requests for meetings since 2012.90 Mr Ashley admitted that he could not be aware of every problem relating to his workforce at Sports Direct91 but when asked about engaging with Unite, replied “Sports Direct can do a better job for the employees at Sports Direct than Unite”.92 When it was later put to him that if his employees had independent workplace representation and if they had employment terms that gave them a fair opportunity to raise a grievance, not only would these problems not occur, but they would not be able to occur, Mr Ashley replied “a good point”.93

63.We are also pleased that, following our oral evidence session, Mr Ashley has contacted Unite “with a view to opening a constructive dialogue” and that he and members of the team at Sports Direct had recently met with a Unite representative. We hope that this will be the start of meaningful exchanges of ideas and proposals for the future, and proper negotiations with the trade union.94

64.When we contacted the Bolsover District Council’s Chief Executive and Partnership Manager, Pam Brown, about the council’s involvement at the Sports Direct warehouse, she confirmed that, for the first time the Regional Officer of Unite had been invited to the NG20 meeting on 12 July 2016.95

65.Unite the Union has worked hard to look after the interests of workers at Sports Direct and has collated a convincing body of evidence detailing unacceptable treatment. We are pleased that, following our oral evidence session, Sports Direct has started to engage with Unite in a positive manner, and we hope that this will extend to proper negotiations over workplace terms, conditions and pay.

66.We are pleased to hear from Bolsover District Council that the Unite regional officer, whose union has collective bargaining rights for Shirebrook’s directly-employed workers and has members who are agency workers, had been invited to attend its community-led committee meeting in July 2016. We hope that this is the start of a more inclusive working relationship that both the council and Sports Direct will be having with Unite the Union, and that a tangible result of this involvement will mean a reduction in Sports Direct workplace accidents, near misses, and other health and safety incidents.

90 Unite the Union para 1.4

91 Q276

92 Q183

93 Q276

94 Letter 12 July 2016, Mr Ashley to Mr Wright

95 The NG20 is a community-led committee, involving the council, police, church leaders, and Sports Direct.

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21 July 2016