Transline Group has been under investigation by parliamentary inquiries by the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee since December 2015, following complaints that warehouse employees were made to work like they were in “Victorian times”.
Temporary and agency works in Sports Direct’s Shirebrook Warehouses complained of conditions in the warehouse, as many were being paid less than minimum wage, and forced to work in unsuitable conditions, such as suggestions that bathroom and water breaks should preferably not take place in the last hour of work so that targets can be met.
Unsuitable working conditions
Workers have revealed the treatment of temporary staff, following a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ policy. This creates an environment where many fear losing their job while being put under constant surveillance. Staff have created a list of complaints consisting of, but not limited to:
- Humiliation – publicly – if your goals are not met;
- Workers kept after clocking out to finish work without pay;
- Staff being fired after time off ill or minding ill family members;
- And pay docking if staff are late – meaning many staff are paid under the national minimum wage.
Others have revealed they were offered permanent jobs positions in return for sexual favours.
Many employees complained of health and safety issues, with 110 ambulances or paramedic cars dispatched to Shirebrook Warehouses between 1 January 2013 and 19 April 2016. 50 0f these cases were classed as life-threatening. There were also 115 incidents between 1 January 2010 and 19 April 2016, with 12 listed as major injuries, and 79 injuries leading to staff absences of over 7 days.
Transline and Sports Direct still strong
Sports Direct’s founder Mike Ashley attended the inquiries last year and was urged by MP’s to cut ties with Transline, advice he ignored. His reappearance at this year’s inquiry, along with Transline’s finance director, Jennifer Hardy, brings Ashley’s judgement in running his company into question.
Transline was accused of deliberately misleading MP’s, a charge the company denies. Transline Group’s chief executives have not attended any of the inquiries. The company receives around £20m a year to supply workers to Sports Direct’s warehouses.
Other companies involved with Transline
After news of Transline employee complaints broke, Amazon cut ties with the company after also using their staff. However, another online retail store, ASOS, defends its relationship with the company and its employees, saying that they take the welfare of staff “very seriously”. ASOS also dismissed rumours of staff being treated like ‘Victorian employees’ as that would not lead to a productive workplace.
This all came after Buzzfeed News broke a story of mistreatment in ASOS’s Barnsley warehouse. Several employees – current and previous – were interviewed about their experiences working within the warehouse. The report mostly follows the story of Joanne Goddard, an ex-employee who was let go from her position after suffering panic attacks due to her high workload and added pressure of her role.
As a temporary staff member, her contract was flexible in the hours she worked, and could also be terminated at any moment. Employees complained of last-minute shift changes meaning people could be expected to work – or not work – at a moment’s notice. They also told of the monitored bathroom and water breaks, public email humiliation if targets weren’t met, and payment being docked by 15 minutes if staff were only 1 minute late.
Invasive security searches along with these other policies create a sense of fear and job uncertainty in employees, meaning many have unionised.
All claims have been denied by ASOS while they continue using Transline agency, as have Sports Direct.
With only two brand’s warehouses coming forward with these stories it is hard to imagine how many other people could be suffering the same treatment elsewhere, but feel too scared to come forward.