JD Sports denies ‘prison’ conditions at warehouse

December 14, 2016 3:06 pm Published by

JD Sports denies ‘prison’ conditions at warehouse

  • 14 December 2016
  • From the section Business

Still from Channel 4 reportImage copyright
Channel 4 News

JD Sports “absolutely refutes” claims made in a Channel 4 News report that conditions in its Rochdale warehouse are “worse than a prison”.

The programme says an undercover investigation will detail “harsh practices”, including a policy allowing workers to be sacked after three minor misdemeanours.

The sportswear retailer says the claims “are simply not true”.

It says there is no such system and workers cannot be fired on the spot.

Channel 4 News filmed undercover inside the Kingsway Business Park facility in Rochdale, which supplies all of JD Sports’ stores in the UK and most of those abroad, as well as fulfilling online orders.

JD employs 1,232 workers at the site and is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by a combination of employees and agency staff. The ratio of employees to agency staff is about 70/30, but fluctuates seasonally.

Channel 4 News says the report, to be broadcast on Wednesday, will show workers saying conditions at the Rochdale site are “worse than a prison” and a team leader “boasting of sacking workers on the spot, for as little as sitting down through exhaustion”.

In response, JD Sports issued a statement saying: “We are deeply disappointed and concerned by the allegations being made which we believe are misleading and not an accurate reflection of our culture, the vast majority of our people or our standards of practice and procedures.

“Indeed, we believe a large number of the allegations put to us by Channel 4 are plainly untrue.”

JD Sports said it had a fully outlined disciplinary procedure and appeals process that applied to JD Sports employees and agency staff.

Shares in JD Sports were down 8% to 310p in afternoon trading in London. The stock has fallen 70% since the start of the year.

‘Three strikes’

The Channel 4 report will claim JD Sports and the agency supplying workers, Assist Recruitment, operate a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, so that workers can be dismissed for three minor misdemeanours, including having a mobile phone or a lighter in the warehouse, being late, or chewing gum.

Image copyright
Channel 4 News

Channel 4 News said it filmed workers standing outside waiting to through security checks to enter the site.

Last year, Sports Direct was criticised for operating a system at its warehouse in Derbyshire which required workers to undergo lengthy security checks. The unpaid time spent clearing security meant workers were in effect receiving less than the minimum wage.

But JD Sports said workers, including agency staff, at the Kingsway warehouse were paid for time spent entering and leaving the premises.

“Our time and attendance system is specifically designed to ensure that all workers from both companies are paid for the time it takes to go through security on leaving the site; and we pay all employees in full who are up to 15 minutes late on arrival,” the company said.

‘Factual evidence’

Channel 4 News showed the television footage to Iain Wright MP, who is heading a Commons inquiry into pay and conditions for low-paid workers.

He told the BBC he was “disgusted” by what appeared to be happening in the UK’s warehouse sector and that there was a sense that employees were being “treated like scum”.

“It sounds like it’s systematic across this area of employment and the government really needs to clamp down on this,” Mr Wright said.

He said JD company would be invited to give evidence to the Commons select committee.

JD Sports said it was disappointed that Channel 4 News had not taken into account the “factual evidence” it had provided to reporters.

The company said once Channel 4 News had allowed access to the footage, it would investigate the claims fully.

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This post was written by FSB News