Sports Direct is the perfect example of staff exploitation right here on our doorstep. Most of us would not stand for this kind of treatment. But still we let it happen. And if we can’t take control of it here, how on earth are we going to deal with it in Bangladesh, Cambodia or China?
Concerns about poor staff working conditions within the UK based warehouse are no secret and have been rumbling on for some time now. Dispatches aired their insider documentary over a year ago about how staff are underpaid, subjected to security pat downs, forced to work long hours without breaks and dismissed at the slightest hiccup. Many of them feared for their jobs.
But it’s only this week that the company’s founder Mike Ashley is having to answer questions directly from the house. And there is no guarantee it will make any difference now or in the future.
Of course there will always be someone trying to beat the system. I don’t doubt that there are hundreds of small employers not meeting the basic criteria for staff treatment. And I would imagine the majority of small business owners like myself are working for well below the minimum wage. But Sports Direct is not a small company. It shouldn’t be able to hide behind well organised visits and a brash stand-offish boss.
Employers should have a moral obligation towards the welfare of their staff as human beings and as employees. Historically, companies who cared for their workforce got a better, more loyal and hard working team. It was an investment on both sides. Back in the day we valued the apprenticeship and staff wanted to stay with the company that had nurtured their talents.
If we are so lapse with welfare in our own backyard, what hope have we of dealing with supply chains in other countries where the products will ultimately end up in our high street shops? And what about immigrants already here who are off our radar and ripe for exploitation?
In an uncertain economy zero hours contracts enable businesses to survive during times of fast and famine and it does enable workers who need that flexibility or perhaps wouldn’t secure full time work, to gain employment. But should that leave them open to the kind of abuses we thought we only saw away from the UK’s prying eyes. It’s no secret we are less than squeaky clean.
As the BBC news of Tuesday 7th June revealed, many shoppers are content to let such things slip by if it means bagging a cheap purchase. And this is why supply chain issues will never be resolved. Because not enough customers care and at the end of the day it all comes down to the way we spend our money. If you spend in a shop you know is not playing by the rules you are condoning the behaviour. End of.
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