Sports Direct agencies on the six strikes policy

The six strikes policy
The six strikes policy

Sports Direct agency bosses have defended their six strikes policy in the face of criticism from MPs.

In a hearing with MPs from the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, bosses from two agencies that supply Sports Direct with its warehouse labour force, Transline and Best Connection, said “none of their workers have been mistreated by Sports Direct”.

This is despite MPs hearing workers were called “selfish” if they left at the end of their allotted shift, people being hit and new female starters being dubbed “fresh meat”.

Under a BBC investigation, a document from one of the agencies supplying Sports Direct with workers shows it operates under a six strikes policy.

Such strikes can include taking too long in the toilet and “excessive talking”.

“The strikes there not to be a punishment or to churn staff as that costs money,” said Jennifer Hardy, finance director at Transline.

“Strikes are designed to prevent people health and safety and to make sure people turn up for work. When you have got a large number of people of site, there are limited options available to help you do that.”

Sports Direct bosses were said to understand and were aware of the strikes policy used by the agencies.

Hardy said its flexible contracts give workers rights that they wouldn’t enjoy under a zero hours contract. However, MPs criticised the terms and conditions of contracts that showed “unless there is good cause, you must accept any assignment offered by the company” and that Transline “reserves the right to end an assignment at any time without notice”.

Hardy couldn’t give examples of good cause when refusing shifts.

Andrew Turner, Unite assistant general secretary, said the working conditions of Shirebrook has impacted employees’ health and safety.

Andrew Sweeney, chief executive of Best Connections, which deploys 1700 workers to Sports Direct every week, said trade union Unite and the press have “misrepresented” the situation at Shirebrook.

An investigation by the BBC found ambulances were called out to the headquarters of Sports Direct in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, 76 times in two years.

Many calls by Sports Direct workers were for “life threatening” illnesses with the BBC reporting staff who were “too scared” to take sick leave.