SPORTS Direct’s new workers’ rep faces an “uphill struggle” to bring fairness to the boardroom, Unite warned yesterday.
In a bid to deflect growing public criticism of the poor treatment of staff, the retail giant has “elected” an employee to attend board meetings.
Unite’s officer leading the Sports Direct campaign Luke Pimarolo urged new rep Alex Balacki — a store manager from Barnstable — to use his platform to “persuade the company that agency workers on insecure hire-and-fire contracts are offered permanent appointments.”
Mr Pimarolo said: “We sincerely hope that the new board member will take up our invitation to meet. As a company appointee he faces an uphill struggle to convince the workforce that he will be their eyes and ears in the boardroom.
“If the company is to go down the route of workers on the board, then they should be elected in an open and transparent process.”
Unite recently informed the Commons business select committee that workers employed at Sports Direct are still waiting for backpay from agency Transline, who were caught failing to pay the minimum wage.
In a letter to staff, billionaire owner Mike Ashley, who was hauled before the committee last year, said: “I’d like to be the first to congratulate Alex, who will help us to continue to make a positive difference by ensuring that your voice is heard in the boardroom.”
Mr Balacki said he was “very proud” to have been picked by staff ahead of two rival candidates.
Sports Direct did not respond to questions regarding how candidates were selected and how the election was carried out.