AN INVESTIGATION into Sports Direct, the goods and clothes company founded by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, has seen the billionaire baron admit before parliament to paying his staff less than minimum wage, as former employees shed light on disgusting working conditions.
The comprehensive undercover work by the Guardian revealed that warehouse staff were searched right down the last layer, and right up to the tip of their underwear, in a sickening 15 minute ordeal they weren’t paid for.
Employees were harassed by tannoy for not working fast enough, and were so terrified of taking time off that local teachers frequently dealt with sick children.
A ‘six strikes and you’re out’ rule included such misdeeds as long toilet breaks, while staff were fined for arriving one minute late.
Hundreds of ambulances were called to the premises as employees suffered physical distress, ranging from chest pains, to one woman being forced to give birth in a toilet.
At one warehouse in Derbyshire, described as a “gulag” by former victims, some 80 per cent of employees were on a zero hour contract, banned from wearing 802 different brands of clothing, and searched at the end of each shift.
It is these security checks that have caused the legal uproar, with the moral case for Ashley’s downfall already clear cut. Estimated to steal one hour and 15 minutes from each worker over the course of a week, the company saved millions of pounds annually by fleecing low paid workers of their statutorily guaranteed salary.
Ashley now faces compensation claims and a full hearing before HMRC.