Shirebrook’s biggest employer, Sports Direct, has reported staggering year-end losses after an ‘extreme’ campaign against employment practices.
The company’s underlying profit before tax is down 57 per cent to £71.6m, following ‘an increase in depreciation’.
And while the company actually experienced a 44 per cent rise in revenues - partly blaming the loss on the falling pound, they pinned losses to an ‘extreme campaign’ by members of the media, parliament and unions.
Chairman Keith Hellawell said: “I have no doubt that the extreme political, union and media campaign waged against this company has not only damaged its reputation and influenced our customers, it has impacted negatively on the morale of our people.
“I begin to question whether this intense scrutiny is all ethically motivated.”
“One of the most damaging consequences has been for the very people our critics supposedly support. The board accepts responsibility for our shortcomings, but there has also been disproportionate, inaccurate and misleading commentary.”
His comments follow a parliamentary enquiry into working practices at the firm’s Shirebrook warehouse, which prompted owner Mike Ashley to admit ‘some failings’ had been made at the firm.
The truth about Sports Direct’s use of ‘Dickensian’ working practices was first exposed by the Chad when a pregnant worker was so scared to take time off she gave birth in a toilet block at the Shirebrrok campuses.
What followed was an investigation by national media, and the Guardian newspaper exposed the company for effectively paying workers less than minimum wage after they had spent up to 40 minutes each day undergoing rigorous security checks.
The Business Innovation and Skills Committee hearing also learned from Unite officials that agencies who engaged workers on Sports Direct’s behalf, Transline and Best Connection, used precarious ‘336 contracts’ - said to be ‘worse’ than zero hours as they eliminate the right to seek additional work while guaranteeing at last one month’s pay per year.
Steve Turner, assistant general secretary discussed zero-hours labour at the hearing in June. he said: “We’re not fruit picking in the wild of Kent here. This is a business model with exploitation at the very heart of it”
Worker rep at the site Luke Primarolo, said: “In the warehouse there is a culture of fear. People are scared because they are working under a system they know they could lose their employment at any moment.”
Mike Ashley said he was continuing with plans to turn the company in to the ‘Selfridges’ of sports retail.
He added: “The significant events over the last year have been tough on our people and morale - our people are our number one priority over the long term.”
“Our UK Sports Retail business continues to be the engine of Sports Direct, but our results have been affected by the significant deterioration in exchange rates, and our assessment of our risk relating to our stock levels and European stores