Politicians suggest 'monster' billionaire Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley hires non-English speakers in warehouses so they can't speak out

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The billionaire owner of Sports Direct Mike Ashley was branded a "monster" by politicians in parliament late on Monday over the allegedly terrible working conditions that have been uncovered by several media outlets over the last year.

In fact, one Labour MP John Mann even claimed Ashley was so underhanded that he deliberately hired non-English speaking warehouse workers because this would mean they were less likely to speak out.

"Everyone knows in our area you can't get a job in the warehouse at Sports Direct if you are an English native speaker, despite 3,000 people working there," said Mann. "There was baby born in the toilets there. Why is it that there were 80 ambulance visits over two years at Sports Direct? And is it possibly the case, employees are too scared to have time off to go see the doctor?"

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Labour MP Dennis Skinner called Ashley, who is personally worth over £3 billion ($4.5 billion), a monster and highlighted how he doesn't even answer to lawmakers.

john mann1

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Labour MP John Mann suggested Mike Ashley hired non-English speakers on purpose.

"That man has not made £6 billion because he's a considerate employer. He's a monster of a man that doesn't even reply to MPs' letters," said Skinner, whose constituency has a Sports Direct warehouse in it.

The Commons Speaker John Bercow authorised an urgent debate on Sports Direct on Monday following a Guardian newspaper investigation into the working conditions of employees. It was the latest in a long line of undercover stories related to the bargain clothing store.

The Guardian's investigation is pretty lengthy but you should check it out here.

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However, here are the highlights:

  • Warehouse staff are body searched at the end of their shift but the time to take doing this is not paid for.
  • The report also says staff are punished by having their wages docked if they are just one minute late.
  • Workers in the Derbyshire warehouse are also "harangued" over the site's tannoy for not working fast enough.
  • Warehouse workers are also allegedly banned from wearing 802 different types of brands at work.
  • The retailer's warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire has more than 80% of staff are on zero hours contracts.

The newspaper report says by using these methods, it can lead workers to only be paid £6.50 ($9.90) per hour, which is below the statutory minimum wage of £6.70 ($10.20). This in turn can save Sports Direct, which has a market capitalisation of £4 billion ($6 billion), hundreds of millions of pounds per year.

Here is a video posted by the Guardian of the searches:

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This isn't the first time Sports Direct's working practices have fallen under scrutiny - Buzzfeed unveiled a massive investigation of its own in May this year

In October, the BBC also did a report which claimed staff were constantly afraid that they would be fired for taking sick leave. The BBC added that more than 80 calls to ambulances were made from the British company's headquarters over a two-year period as a result of this.

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However, on several occasions, Mike Ashley declared that the results of these various investigations were "unfounded and inaccurate."

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