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19/12/2015 - Pressure mounts on Sports Direct

sportsidrectTax inspectors should look at the way Sports Direct pays and treats agency staff say trade unionists. Responding to pressure the company promised an internal review.

In a lengthy statement Sports Direct defended their “performance-led culture” and accused their critics of “ignoring the facts.”

Sports Direct has come under pressure since a newspaper investigation last week uncovered “gulag-like” working conditions at its Shirebrook warehouse in Nottinghamshire, where agency workers were reportedly paid less than the minimum wage.

The Guardian sent undercover reporters to work at Sports Direct's warehouse in Shirebrook in Derbyshire last month. Workers were “harangued” via a tannoy system, penalised for taking sick days and regularly searched when clocking on and off,the Guardian found.

Sports Direct admitted that it searched staff leaving its warehouses, but said it had reduced the amount of time these searches took.

The Guardian suggested the extra, unpaid time taken for "rigorous" compulsory searches meant workers were paid less than the minimum wage.

Back in October, a BBC investigation found that ambulances or paramedic cars were called out to Shirebrook 76 times in two years.

Many of the calls were for "life-threatening" illnesses. Former workers said some staff were "too scared" to take sick leave because they feared losing their jobs.

The company statement announced that billionaire boss Mike Ashley will “personally oversee a review of all agency worker terms and conditions.”

The review will set out to “ensure the company does not just meet its legal obligations, but also provides a good environment for the entire workforce,” the company said.

Unite East Midlands officer Luke Primarolo warned: “This review should not deter HMRC from investigating the non-payment of the minimum wage to agency workers at Sports Direct.

“If his review is to be taken seriously then it has to have concrete outcomes, such as restoring dignity at work by moving [agency] workers onto permanent contracts.

“A failure to do so will do nothing to restore investor and customer confidence and leave the board open to accusations of doing nothing more than engaging in a public relations stunt.”

Sports Direct denied that it or its contractors employed workers at Shirebrook on zero-hours contracts and said the tannoy was used for “logistical reasons.”

It also hit back at reports from teachers at schools near Shirebrook that parents who work for Sports Direct are scared to take time off to collect sick children from school.

“Sports Direct allows staff time off to look after dependants in such circumstances,” bosses claimed.