Socialist Worker

Bosses owed workers staggering £1.7 million after avoiding minimum wage

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2584

The Unite union exposed appalling work practices at Sports Directs Shirebrook warehouse

The Unite union exposed appalling work practices at Sports Direct's Shirebrook warehouse


Sports Direct has been “named and shamed” as one of the 260 bosses who failed to pay workers the national minimum wage.  

And two recruitment agencies which supplied staff to the retail giant were also on the list released by the government on Friday.

Bosses owed a staggering £1.7 million in back pay to 16,000 workers.

The revelations follow the Unite union’s campaign exposing work practices at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire.

A pregnant worker, who wasn’t given permission to go home, was forced to give birth in the toilets on New Year’s Day 2014. But Sports Direct’s billionare boss Mike Ashley shamelessly pulled out wads of £50 notes when he went through security at a warehouse open day.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said, “If it hadn’t been for Unite’s campaign the abusive work practices and non-payment of the minimum wage would be continuing.

“Scandalously though, some long serving agency workers at Sports Direct are still owed a portion of their back pay.”

He added, “It raises serious questions about how serious government ministers are about enforcement.”

Occupying top spot among firms was employment agency The Best Connection, which supplies workers to Sports Direct. In second was the agency Transline, which was also embroiled in scandal at the retailer and has since gone bust,

And in fourth place was Sports Direct itself.

Rogue 

Other employers on the list included Primark Stores in Reading, Motherwell Football Club and Bristol Rovers FC.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady claimed, “Today's list should put the frighteners on rogue employers across the country.”

However, it’s clear that bosses will keep trying to underpay workers unless there is are stronger unions. As GMB union leader Tim Roache said, “These companies rake in millions of pounds in profit yet think it’s okay to cheat workers out of the wages.”

Meanwhile, the PCS civil service workers’ union has decided to put together plans for more protests to win above-inflation pay rises. This follows a consultative ballot that showed overwhelming support for industrial action against the Tories’ 1 percent public sector pay cap.

The PCS executive has also agreed to “ensure that all workplaces are ballot-ready”.  “So if we have to move to a statutory strike ballot we can achieve the majority turnout now required under the Trade Union Act.”

“We will also be talking to the TUC and other unions about joint campaigning on pay.”

A national strike ballot could deliver a strong result—and put PCS at the forefront of the pay revolt.

And a fight over the cap could help raise every workers’ pay—and build and strengthen unions to take on the bosses.


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.