Sports Direct's AGM tomorrow is set to be an even more lively affair than usual.
Unite the union has revealed plans for a protest outside the AGM with members dressed as Dickensian workers. They will be demanding "an end to ‘Victorian’ work practices at the retailer’s nearby Shirebrook warehouse and that the company pays a real living wage of £7.85 per hour", the union said.
It is part of a national day of coordinated protests, which will take place outside 40 Sports Direct stores throughout the UK. The union claims agency workers on zero hours contracts work in fear of a ‘six strikes and you’re out rule’.
Offences apparently include taking too long in the toilet, talking too much and having time off for sickness.
Workers also face being ‘named and shamed’ over a tannoy for not working hard enough, according to Unite.
It follows growing shareholder unrest with the way things are managed at the FTSE 100 retailer.
Last week investor group Pirc urged investors to reject six and abstain on three of the retailer's 16 resolutions. Yesterday shareholder Royal London Asset Management said it would vote against founder Mike Ashley's continued presence on the board over corporate governance concerns.
Unite regional officer Luke Primarolo said: “Low paid agency workers on zero hours contracts are being subjected to working conditions that are more akin to a Dickensian workhouse than a FTSE 100 company’s warehouse.
“These Victorian era conditions combined with Sports Direct’s rampant use of zero hours contracts across its stores, only adds to the charge that Keith Hellawell and the board are running Sports Direct like a ‘backstreet outfit’. With question marks over corporate governance and dire employment practices, we would urge shareholders to join Unite and the Trade Union Share Owners group in sending a message to the board by opposing the re-election of Keith Hellawell."
Chairman Hellawell was accused of overseeing a "backstreet outfit" by MPs during a select committee grilling in March.
Sports Direct declined to comment.