Sports Direct boss admits minimum wage breach in UK

7th June 2016, Comments 0 comments

The founder of international retail chain Sports Direct on Tuesday admitted to lawmakers staff in Britain had effectively been paid below the minimum wage and that the firm had "probably" outgrown him.

Mike Ashley told MPs from the Business Select Committee that security checks by guards at the company's vast warehouse in Shirebrook in central England had held up staff from leaving on time, meaning some received less than the legal minimum hourly rate overall.

"On that specific point, for that specific bit of time, yes," he said when asked if his firm had broken the rules.

He conceded that the 20 percent full-time and 80 percent part-time split of his firm's workforce was unfair, but defended employing staff without contracts, pointing out that "some of our top people have come from zero-contract employment."

Luke Primarolo, regional officer at the Unite union, said staff at the warehouse were "scared because they are working under a system when they know they could lose their employment at any moment."

Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United Football Club, said the company's rapid growth meant it was now "too big" for him to know everything that was going on.

He admitted that he "honestly didn't know" who had implemented a policy whereby staff were docked 15 minutes worth of pay for being a minute late.

Ashley called it "unacceptable" and "unreasonable" and indicated that he thought it had been changed.

But he insisted he had to take into account the interests of the firm, saying: "I'm not Father Christmas, I'm not saying I'll make the world wonderful."

Investors responded positively to Ashley's appearance, with Sports Direct's share price rising by over five percent in afternoon trading.

The company, established in 1982, is Britain's leading sports retailer by revenue, operating 455 sports stores in Britain and 257 shops in 20 European countries.

© 2016 AFP

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