CONTROVERSY-MIRED online fashion retail chain Asos was accused of creating a two-tier workforce yesterday with staff in the south treated better than those in the north.
The firm, which announced an expansion of its activities in London yesterday, also operates a warehouse on the site of the former Grimethorpe colliery outside Barnsley in South Yorkshire.
The warehouse’s workers are subject to shocking conditions, says general union GMB.
Workers have to urinate in water fountains because there is no time for the 15-minute walk to the nearest toilet, GMB says.
Asos plans to open another warehouse in London employing 1,500 workers — but GMB says that at face value the London workers will be given better working conditions than those in Yorkshire.
The announcement of the London expansion came after GMB activists staged a “catwalk of shame” protest outside Asos’s London headquarters over the company’s treatment of its Yorkshire workers.
GMB said that reports from the Grimethorpe site have pointed to excessive monitoring of workers, multiple security checks each day — including to and from the toilet — the use of “flexible” contracts that leave staff unsure how many hours they will work each week and a reliance on agency work in the former mining village.
The union’s Yorkshire regional secretary Neil Derrick said: “We welcome the announcement of 1,500 new jobs at Asos — but not when GMB’s concerns for the workers in Yorkshire have been completely ignored.
“The company’s growth is on the back of workers in their Yorkshire warehouse, yet there seems to be a huge disparity between how Asos staff in London and workers in Yorkshire are treated.
“Conditions in Barnsley are frankly shocking and have caused the GMB grave concern over the past two years.
“Will the new London staff have secure, permanent roles? Or will they be forced to live with flexi-contracts like the Yorkshire staff?”
He said the company should work with GMB to improve conditions at its Yorkshire warehouse. Asos employs 2,500 people at its Camden headquarters.
The company claims the allegations about conditions at its Barnsley warehouse are “inaccurate and misleading.”
Asos boss Nick Beighton said: “Our people are what make Asos special. We are creating a workspace that fosters creativity, where they can enjoy what they do.”