By Joe Mount
A Channel 4 News investigation has revealed that sportswear retailer JD Sports imposes draconian working conditions at its warehouses in northern England.
During a five-week investigation, undercover reporters for Channel 4 television recorded evidence of an oppressive and super-exploitative regime at the firm’s distribution centre in Rochdale, Greater Manchester that supplies UK stores. Video footage shows a supervisor explaining to an undercover reporter, “Three strikes and you’re sacked.”
The Rochdale warehouse employs 1,500 low-wage employees, hundreds of whom are on agency contracts.
Job insecurity and constant surveillance create Dickensian conditions of exploitation. One team leader is recorded warning, “No sitting down, no, you get fired. I’ve sacked people for sitting down.” Workers discuss the harsh policies which make their jobs “worse than a prison.”
Workers receive one strike for wearing branded clothes, two for using a mobile phone and one strike for bringing in food or drink, according to an internal company document brought to light by Channel 4. Management guidelines detail the strict regulations and punishments to be imposed on staff. The rules are reportedly less than two years old and remain in use.
Channel 4 News reported, “The investigation found many new staff taken on at the warehouse are employed through an employment agency called Assist Recruitment, which says it has been working with JD Sports for 12 years.
“The agency recruits are given ‘zero hours contracts’ with no guarantee of work and are paid the minimum wage of £7.20 per hour. The contracts allow the agency to dismiss them instantly without notice.