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Sports Direct agrees to independent review of working practices

Sports Direct shop

Sports Direct has made a major u-turn and pledged to carry out an independent review of its working practices and corporate governance. The firm has long been in the spotlight for its heavy use of zero hours contracts, low pay, and draconian working practices.

This change of heart by the company comes after a long campaign by Unite, the union for Sports Direct workers. The pressure mounted earlier this month when a motion by Trade Union Share Owners (TUSO) at the retailer’s annual general meeting secured the unprecedented backing of a majority of independent shareholders.

The TUSO resolution called for an independent review into the company’s human capital strategy. Those voting in favour included investors and fund managers with no previous history of supporting employment resolutions.

Mike Ashley, the company’s founder and majority owner, now says that following “shareholder feedback,” the review “will now be led by an independent party.”

Janet Williamson, the Chair of TUSO welcomed the u-turn, saying:

“This is good news for Sports Direct workers, especially young workers who make up a large part of their staff but too often get a poor deal at work.

“The board should now consult both shareholders and trade unions in finalising the plans for the independent review. Trade unions representing workers at Sports Direct stand ready to work with the company to ensure a successful future that is fair for its staff.”

Calling on the Sports Direct board to work with Unite to repair confidence and restore dignity in the workplace, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said:

“We offer every assistance in the next steps in Sports Direct’s journey towards fair employment, including with this review, and call on Mr. Ashley to recognise the benefits of working with the union during this process as an essential way to build faith with the workforce.”

The announcement of an independent review is a step forward in the journey for better-working conditions at Sports Direct. But it also needs to be followed by real action.  We and Unite will continue to keep up the pressure to make sure the company is genuine about changes that their workforce and their investors need to see.

20 Sep 16

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