Sports Direct warehouse workers in Derbyshire continue to work during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Now the company finds itself accused of ignoring government guidelines designed to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease.
The United union says some workers with basic health conditions have been threatened with layoffs if they attempt to isolate themselves.
Sports Direct’s giant Shirebrook warehouse in New Brook Business Park, Derbyshire employs 3,000 to 4,000 workers, according to Derbyshire Live.
Sports Direct angered Monday when, within 30 minutes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to close all non-essential retailers, they sent an email to all employees insisting that the stores would remain open.
Shortly thereafter, they also raised the prices of sports equipment by up to 50%.
And local Shirebrook activists are increasingly concerned that some Sports Direct workers are being pushed to report to work.
In addition, it is claimed that the two-meter distance rule, designed to reduce the chances of passing on Covid-19, has not been respected.
Now the Unite union has invited Sports Direct chief Ashley, also a Newcastle United owner, to send full-fledged workers home to limit the spread of the disease.
United Regional Agent Cheryl Pidgeon said in a letter: “We have reports of threatened workers without jobs if they isolate themselves when they have basic health problems.
“We have news of people who have been told not to worry about having only two people in the car when they go to work, but to get” five “.
“We have photographic evidence of the lack of products available for workers to wash according to government guidelines.
“We have reports of workers who are not two meters away and photographic evidence of this.
“Today people still use scanners with their fingers and are being searched closely.
“The products many people are working on are not critical to the nation right now – we also have photographic evidence. There are many, many frightened workers in the warehouse.
“These are decent human beings who have served Sports Direct loyally in difficult conditions with low wages and many have permanent contracts.
“They are not fodder to make mass profit at the expense of one’s health and safety, and of one’s family. Warehouse work is not critical according to government guidelines.
“Many members of the community are ex-miners with severe chest health problems: by not allowing workers to return home and stay safe, local communities are put at risk.
“For the sake of employees, the local community and corporate reputation, please allow workers to go home, stay safe and pay their usual wages without loss of money.
“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of all the workers in the warehouse – ask Mike Ashley, for once, to do the right thing for the workers – put them first and not profit from it.”
Paresh Patel, East Midlands United Regional Secretary Paresh Patel, said: “When the history of the coronavirus is written, Mike Ashley’s already troubled reputation will be torn to shreds unless he does the right thing and sends the his Shirebrook workers by paying the full duration of the coronavirus emergency.
“Ashley has become fabulously wealthy on the shoulders of low-income workers – now is the time when it should rise above the cut-throat pursuit of profit that marked her controversial career – the nation is watching.”
Sports Direct simultaneously activated temporary recruiting agencies that provide staff for the controversial Derbyshire depot.
As the retailer attempts to dismiss criticisms of safeguarding his workers’ health within the ongoing pandemic, the company appears to admit failures in following Covid-19’s safety.
He said he was reviewing agency contracts because “in some cases we have struggled to enforce [with the agencies] who are members of the government / WHO [World Health Organization] “Regulations.
However, the decision as to whether to keep the warehouse open depends only on Sports Direct.
An email sent by a Sports Direct spokesperson to the Guardian on Thursday said: “Our primary concern is and has always been the well-being of all staff working at Shirebrook – full-time employees and agency staff – with the commitment to guarantee hours to all.
“We have scrupulously followed government / WHO guidelines and are constantly providing advice and support to our entire workforce to apply these new rules.
“For clarity, when the coronavirus struck we were halfway through the race with all our agencies, having been afraid that some agencies would not take care of their staff.
“We are not downsizing but we are trying to work with responsible suppliers. This current, terrible situation has only further underlined how unrepeatable it is [sic] these agencies are; in some cases we have struggled to enforce government / WHO regulations.
“As a result, we are currently reviewing our contracts.”
It was claimed that the spokesman attempted to remember the email sent to the newspaper, stating that it had not been approved by the Sports Direct legal department and that there were now no reviews.