Earlier in the week, we spoke about how Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley and his Sports Direct business had been fleecing customers and ignoring government guidelines.
Now, after a pretty significant backlash, he has issued an apology – but it’s too late for that. He and the Fraser Group made their bed, and now it’s time that we force them to lie in it.
Mike Ashley has a history of stuff like this
This isn’t the first time Mike Ashley has shown he has no regard for his employees at Sports Direct. In 2015, the Guardian newspaper revealed that staff at the Sports Direct factory in Derbyshire were being paid less than the minimum wage.
The Guardian report detailed out the horrific working conditions those poor people had to endure. Being harassed via tannoys for moving “too slowly”, being forced to strip down to their last layer when leaving to be searched etc.
All of this can be read in the Guardian’s report, which you can read by clicking here. This little nugget from the piece is something that stood out to me:
“…while ‘crimes’ against the company – called ‘strikes’ and including ‘errors’, ‘excessive/long toilet breaks’, ‘time wasting’, ‘excessive chatting’, ‘horseplay’, ‘wearing branded goods’ and ‘using a mobile phone in the warehouse’ – are punished. Six strikes in six months and you’re out.”
The factory in Shirebrook is known locally as “The Gulag” which, in all honesty, tells you everything you need to know about the conditions. BBC reported that, over the course of two years, ambulances were called to the factory 76 times. You can read that horrific story here.
The former employees tell stories that they went to work even when sick, for fear of being sacked for taking time off work. One worker went to work with “flu symptoms” through fear, and proceeded to have a stroke in the canteen later that day.
This week, during the worst public health crisis most of us have ever, or will ever, see – Mike Ashley and his directors at the Fraser Group had the gall to come out and declare their staff “key workers”, so they didn’t have to close their doors.
After a world of pressure from the UK media and social media, they did reverse that stance later the same day.
However, it was then revealed that they had not only been showing no consideration for their staff, but their customers too as a report showed price hikes of up to 50% on some work out equipment. Truly appalling.
Today, Mike Ashley released a bit of a grovelling apology for the actions of his company this week. Here is the summary:
“Our intentions were only to seek clarity from the Government as to whether we should keep some of our stores open,” said Ashley. “We would never have acted against their advice.”
“In hindsight, our emails to the Government were ill-judged and poorly timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with.
“On top of this, our communications to our employees and the public on this was poor.
“To reiterate, I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future.”
I should point out that as part of this apology, Ashley has offered the Sports Direct fleet of lorries to the NHS to help them through this period.
Too little, too late – time for some action
For me, this is all far too little, too late. It’s about time we start treating Sports Direct with the same attitude we treat other organisations who consistently show a lack of regard for people.
As an example, there is one particular newspaper that the people of this country hate so much they won’t even utter their name – nor will I. Now, it’s time Sports Direct is given the same treatment in my honest opinion.
If you need sports gear, go to DW Sports. Better yet, utilise the services of a local vendor for your sporting needs – but steer well clear of Sports Direct. There’s no justification for this level of disdain not only towards the British public, but your own bloody employees.
These people have been treated like slaves for far too long, and earned far less than the minimum wage in doing so. A lot of them have been forced to work on zero hour contracts in the process, not knowing from one week to the next whether they will have any money coming in.
This is no way to treat your employees. To top it off, they have capitalised on the worst public health crisis is modern history to try and bolster their own profits. This is scum behaviour of the highest order and to me, warrants a total boycott.
Due to my allegiances in football, I already refuse to buy anything from Sports Direct or any of their affiliates. I suggest the rest of the country follow suit.