Campaigners celebrate victory after forcing Sports Direct to drop zero hours contracts


Trade union and youth activists across Scotland and the UK waged a campaign to end exploitative work practices at the sports chain

CAMPAIGNERS and trade unionists are celebrating the news that they have forced Sports Direct to drop the use of exploitative zero hours contracts.

The abandonment of several employment practices by the Sports Direct board, including zero hours contracts, which force employees to work as many or as few hours as employers chose to offer, and a “six strikes” rule, which can see staff sacked for the most minor infractions, comes after months of agressive campaigning.

A series of exposes in December first revealed the controversial work practices, which saw employees sometimes working for below the minimum wage.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: "We should not forget that the abuses which the Sports Direct board now want to take action on would not have been thrust into the public eye if it had not been for the work of Unite.

“In a world of work which is becoming ever more precarious Unite has proved that trade unions are more relevant than ever and that it pays to be a member of a trade union.

“We will seek to work constructively with Sports Direct over the coming months to ensure it stays true to its promise to restore dignity and respect to the workplace.”

Over 20,000 people backed a Unite petition to put a stop to what the union described as “shameful” work practices, and groups of Unite workers protested at company warehouses.

Better than Zero protestors outside Sports Direct in Glasgow

Trade unionists campaigning against Sport Direct conditions were joined in Scotland by young workers who experience zero hours contracts and precarious working conditions throughout service industries such as hospitality.

The Better than Zero campaign organised creative stunts in Glasgow city centre and elsewhere targeting the sportswear chain.

Unite national executive official for young members and Better than Zero organiser Bryan Simpson told CommonSpace: “After a relentless campaign led by Unite's Community and Young members, we have forced the hand of Britain's most exploitative employer and now 15,000 workers will be given guaranteed hours and backdated pay.

“It shows what young workers are capable of when they get together and take on the worst bosses.”

Sports Directs’ climb down is the second high profile victory for campaigners against precarious working conditions in recent months, with the resteraunt chain Las Iguanas being forced to reverse its policy of subtracting money from staff tips in September 2015.

Campaigners have also begun organising in the Bar industry against unpaid work.

Campaigners and unions said they would continue to monitor Sports Direct to ensure it brought about further changes.

Picture courtesy of Martin Pettitt

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