PROTESTERS picketed Sports Direct stores across Britain yesterday as the disgraced retailer staged its annual general meeting in Derbyshire.
At the meeting, under-fire chairman Keith Hellawell narrowly clung onto his job, with shareholders voting by 53.24 per cent for his reappointment despite speculation that he’d be turfed out.
But across the country Unite union activists targeted over 30 stores after chief executive Mike Ashley, who didn’t attend the meeting, broke the promise made at last year’s AGM to abolish zero-hours contracts.
They wore sad face emoji masks after the firm reportedly asked warehouse workers to express their job satisfaction by hitting smiles or frowns on a keypad — only to haul the unhappy into meetings with managers.
Among them was the company’s store in Newcastle, where Unite Community northern organiser John Coan said: “There was a good turnout. We were there for a good two hours and as always in Newcastle there was a positive public reaction.”
He said the biggest protest was in London, and campaigners also targeted the warehouse where the company’s annual meeting took place.
Another store targeted was in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow where protesters chanted: “Zero-hours no way — make Mike Ashley pay.”
Unite Community Glasgow branch chair Keith Stoddart said: “Unite gave Mike Ashley a year to put his house in order and he hasn’t done that.
“Ashley has failed to give guaranteed hours for shop workers or put any warehouse personnel on permanent contracts. Ashley has failed to meet a pledge to stop the use of zero-hours contracts and has failed to make such contracts into guaranteed hours backed up with signed contracts.
“He ought to know that the best assets his company has are its workers. It’s time they were treated with dignity respect and decent wages. We say No to this modern slavery.”
He urged Sports Direct workers to join Unite.
“How can you fight for a better deal on your own? Companies like Sports Direct are not in the habit of handing out decent wages and conditions. Join Unite!” he said.