GUEST COLUMN: Sports Direct must act, by Coun Sonya Ward, leader of Mansfield Labour Group

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The damning report into working conditions at Sports Direct should concern us all.

This report was written by MPs from the cross party Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee in Parliament.

It is unacceptable that in 2016, in the UK, that workers are being employed on such poor terms and conditions that MPs exploring the matter describe their workplace being ‘like a Victorian workhouse’ and we should all be concerned that this is happening.

The long-running campaign from Unite the Union, supported locally by your Mansfield Labour councillors, has helped put the spotlight on these issues, and this shows the important role unions play in safeguarding workers and in creating real change.

It is unacceptable that people should today be employed in conditions which see them treat as “commodities rather than as human beings with rights, responsibilities and aspirations”.

It is unacceptable that a baby should start its life in the toilets of a workplace, rather than in the safety and security of a maternity unit, because its mum was too scared to take a day off.

It is unacceptable that people are paid below the minimum wage.

As for Mike Ashley’s role in this, MP Iain Wright who chaired the committee, said: “It seems incredible that Mike Ashley, who visits the Shirebrook warehouse at least once a week, was unaware of these appalling practices.

This suggests Mr Ashley was turning a blind eye to conditions at Sports Direct in the interests of maximising profits, or that there are serious corporate governance failings which left him out of the loop in spite of all the evidence.”

The warehouse staff of 3,000 people, many of whom live in our district are largely employed on temporary short-term contracts. These do not enable people to plan for the future, or to have any security, and they are simply not fair.

Mr Ashley cannot say he is unaware of the issues now, so I hope that he will now make every effort to rectify the failings of his company and to treat workers with the dignity and fairness they deserve.