Nothing new at Sports Direct

Ex-Sports Soccer worker

As a former employee of Sports Soccer which was the predecessor of Sports Direct it came as little surprise to me to learn that this company is one of the worst culprits for using zero-hour contracts.

Sports Soccer’s policy at the store I worked at was basically to sign as many people as it could onto zero-hour contracts, which put a lot of reserve labour at their disposal.

The deal was if you step out of line once or we don’t like the look of you we will give your hours to somebody else.

It was store policy that you had to be on the shop floor ten minutes before your shift (and pay) started. So for every six shifts they got a free hour out of you.

In fact, they got a lot more than that – it was also made clear to you at the interview that you were expected at the end of the day to tidy the store which, again, was unpaid and usually took between 30 and 45 minutes. Shop floor workers, I am sure you are shocked to learn, were on minimum wage.

Employees had to enter the store through the back door where there was a big sign saying that if you opened it without a supervisor present you would face immediate dismissal.

Worst of all you were basically treated as a criminal and subject to a body and bag search at the end of every shift.

Tesco: unpaid hours and security issues

Declan Clune, Hampshire Socialist Party

The attack on pay and conditions is continuing at a pace for workers in the retail industry. I spoke to a Tesco shop worker this week who told me of his joy at being promoted to team leader.

However, after going to a new store to take on the role it became clear very quickly what this ‘promotion’ meant.

The store manager had no intention of providing sufficient staffing levels to cope with the workload expected.

On more than one occasion the team leader was working with just one other staff member for the entire nine-hour shift.

This meant one person on the till and the other sorting out deliveries, stock replenishment, finance security, baking of breads and rolls, and many other duties.

Once when the manager found that not all of these duties had been completed at the end of the shift he got annoyed.

The team leader defended himself and was told that he was expected to work beyond the shift times for up to two hours to complete the work – without pay! He quickly realised that the small increase in pay would be cancelled out after working free hours at the store.

There were security issues with thefts and aggressive customers. With only two staff members in the store they felt vulnerable and so asked Tesco for any possibility of security provision for the store.

They were told this was not budgeted for but would be reassessed should anything serious occur.

After this clear case of exploitation and lack of security, the team leader left. He was told that to be successful in a career in management at Tesco he had to accept longer hours for no extra pay.

I told him about the campaigning being done by Sick Of Your Boss for decent contracts and working conditions and he was keen to get involved.

Sick Of Your Boss protest reports

Sports Direct HQ

Youth Fight for Jobs held a protest in Shirebrook, a village in North Derbyshire, which is home to Sports Direct’s headquarters and distribution centre.

We were making a stand against the company’s use of zero-hour contracts – which 90% of their staff are estimated to be on – and making a call to workers to get organised and fight for decent contracts.

Our protest got a lot of attention and support from passers-by and we spoke to current and ex-workers of Sports Direct.

They told us about working in a factory with a bullying management, walking miles with heavy cages to push, completely inadequate health and safety, including locked fire escapes, air conditioning switched off – all for minimum wage.

After finishing their shift it can take another hour before they can leave while they queue to be physically searched.

Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct, is seen regularly in Shirebrook, sitting in the market place drinking coffee and eating a bacon cob with the locals.

However, someone who is worth £2.3 billion has nothing in common with any residents there.

And what’s more, he’s only made that money through super-exploitation of the people working for him. As we said at the protest: every pound he doesn’t pay his workers, he knows is another pound in his pocket.

Workers are angry, but there is a huge amount of fear about what will happen to them if they take action.

Youth Fight for Jobs is working with the Unite trade union and others to build a campaign that can unite all workers to stop the race to the bottom by fighting for decent jobs, pay, hours and working conditions.

Becci Heagney, East Midlands Youth Fight for Jobs


On 3 and 7 August, Plymouth Youth Fight for Jobs supporters campaigned against zero-hour contracts with Sports Direct, along with other shops in the city centre including Subway, Primark, TK Maxx and Holland & Barretts, targeted for leafleting.

Because of nationwide protesting, Sports Direct hired extra security. A few activists were kicked out of Sports Direct for disseminating information on the staff’s rights.

This gives an indication of the extent to which the workers are bullied and why they may initially want to avoid confrontation with their employers.

It is not surprising as if a worker on a zero-hour contract protests then they could face a reduction in hours or simply be fired.

But organised workers who know their rights can fight for better jobs, pay and conditions. Youth Fight for Jobs Plymouth will be organising further events and protests to talk to workers and customers.

Samuel Taylor-Wickenden, Plymouth Youth Fight for Jobs

Enough is enough!

Youth Fight for Jobs demands:

  • Give us proper contracts, guaranteed hours and full employment rights. No to zero-hour contracts and insecure employment. No more uncertainty and insecurity dressed up as ‘flexibility’!
  • Decent tea and lunch breaks and no being ‘clocked off’ when we take one. It’s not possible to work long shifts without some time to breathe. We shouldn’t be penalised for it
  • Pay us enough to live – Companies which make the bosses millions are paying us (who make them all that money) pennies. We want a living wage which is enough to afford the basics in life. Right now, many of us have to top up our wages with tax credits and benefits. We shouldn’t have to. A living wage of £10 an hour is not too much to ask.
  • Stop the bosses’ ‘fire at will’ attitude, backed up by the government. Making it easier to sack us will increase unemployment – not reduce it!
  • We won’t be used as cheap or free labour on apprenticeships, internships and work-for benefits schemes. A day’s work is a day’s work and it deserves a decent day’s pay.
  • We have the right to get organised at work – Trade unions are there to help give workers protection and fight to improve our conditions. In this country there is a legal right to join a trade union. Despite this, workers who try to get organised are sometimes penalised by their bosses. We say the right to organise is fundamental – full trade union rights now!
  • Scrap the anti-trade union laws – We have a right to try and improve our conditions and stop the bosses that ‘make us sick!’ It’s up to us to democratically decide how we do this. If we want to go on strike or take action then that’s up to us, the courts should not stop us.
  • Build democratic campaigning trade unions – We want trade unions that will fight our corner. That means representing us in the workplace, defending us if we’re under attack and, crucially, helping us use our collective strength as workers to fight back. All workers, young and old, deserve democratic trade unions with fighting leaders!
  • No to benefit cuts – Attacks like this affect all of us, not just the unemployed. For a start thousands of low paid workers rely on benefits. If unemployment benefits are lowered it means the bosses have even less incentive to pay a decent wage. Don’t let their lies divide us!
Get in touch to get involved:
020 8558 7947 [email protected]