by Peter Lazenby THOUSANDS of Sports Direct warehouse workers will receive back pay totalling an estimated £1 million because the notorious company failed to pay the minimum wage, the Unite union announced yesterday. The victory is worth up to £1,000 each for directly employed and agency staff who work at the sportswear retailer’s Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire.The payments, backdated to May 2012, cover unpaid searches at the end of shifts. After clocking off, workers were searched by security guards before leaving the warehouse. The practice pushed their pay below the statutory minimum wage.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This is a significant victory in Unite’s ongoing campaign to secure justice and dignity at work for workers at Sports Direct and demonstrates the importance of modern trade unions in Britain today. “But investors and customers alike should not be fooled into thinking that everything is now rosy at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse.”Most workers are expected to start receiving their backdated pay at the end of this month. But Unite warned that one agency, Transline, was seeking to “disgracefully” short-change workers by initially handing over only half the back pay owed. Transline, which has been stripped of its licence to supply labour to the food industry, and another agency, the Best Connection, together employ 3,000 workers at the site. Both agencies were accused of lying in a report on employment practices at Sports Direct published recently by the Commons business select committee. And Unite has called on Sports Direct to take responsibility for the “endemic abuse” within the employment agencies it is using. Mr Turner said: “Mike Ashley and the Sports Direct board should be under no illusions. The charge of ‘Victorian’ work practices will continue to weigh heavily on Sports Direct until it moves long-standing agency workers onto direct permanent contracts and weans itself off its reliance upon zero-hours contracts.” Unite is now urging shareholders to back a resolution at Sports Direct’s annual general meeting for an independent review of its work practices. firstname.lastname@example.org