BILLIONAIRE Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has supported an £11 million payout to his brother while his workers are still waiting for chunks of their back pay after receiving less than the minimum wage.
Sports Direct said yesterday it wants to pay John Ashley the whopping sum after a probe by company legal advisers RPC and independent accountants Smith and Williamson found he got less than “other senior executives who helped build the company.”
The internal report found that he was not given the additional cash amid fears over a public backlash at a time when the company was embroiled in controversy over “Victorian work practices” at its Shirebrook warehouse.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said that the payout “smacks of bad business as usual” at Sports Direct when agency workers have yet to receive full payment of the money they are owed.
Thousands of workers were awarded back pay totalling £1m after it was revealed last year that the firm was effectively paying agency staff less than the minimum wage. Sports Direct will seek approval for John Ashley’s £11m bung from its shareholders at a meeting next month.
Mike Ashley and the board of directors will not vote, though they confirmed in a company statement they support the payment.
The billionaire said: “I intend to voluntarily abstain from the vote on whether or not John should receive the money that he would otherwise have earned at Sports Direct if he were not my brother.
I fully expect that independent shareholders will vote against this proposal due to the passage of time involved, although in my opinion, technically the money is owed and therefore should be paid.”
However Mr Turner told the Star: “If Mike Ashley is so concerned about ensuring his brother gets the back pay he says he is entitled to, why not the agency workers at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse?
“Many are yet to receive back pay owed from non-payment of the minimum wage and Sports Direct’s refusal to take responsibility and sort it out.”
He slammed Sports Direct bosses’ refusal to meet the union to discuss a pay claim submitted in August for the government-set “national living wage.” “Does this desire to pay £11m to Mike Ashley’s brother signal a new-found generosity towards all workers, or is it only reserved for family and friends?” Mr Turner said.