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‘Are low pay and poor conditions the future of working life in Britain?’

Redcar MP, Anna Turley, has this week questioned the Secretary of State for Business on poor working conditions for employees in Britain following an undercover investigation into the JD Sports warehouse in Rochdale.

The report by Channel 4 News into conditions at the warehouse uncovered agency workers being effectively paid below minimum wage, and harsh practises including a ‘3 strikes and you’re sacked’ policy and staff being randomly searched. Agency workers described conditions as ‘worse than prison’.

It follows similar revelations about the way workers are treated at the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook. As well as news that Amazon workers in Scotland have resorted to sleeping in tents near the company’s warehouse in a desperate attempt to save money.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark MP, came before the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee on Wednesday to take questions from MPs.

In the Committee meeting, Anna asked him if the conditions exposed at JD Sports, Sports Direct and others ‘were the future of working life in Britain’.

“We are seeing in this country a rise in agency working, a rise in zero hours, a rise in insecurity and low pay. We’ve had our own experiences on this committee of Sports Direct and the working conditions at their warehouse in Shirebrook. We have seen in the last few days people sleeping in tents outside the Amazon warehouse in Dunfermline. And tonight on Channel 4 they are doing an undercover report into JD Sports and conditions at their Rochdale warehouse, which are apparently ‘worse than prison’ and where people boast of sacking people at will. There is a quote from one employee – ‘I sacked people for sitting down’. Is this the future for working people in Britain?”

Anna also asked Mr Clark whether he felt the Government had the right powers to tackle these issues and enforce workplace standards.

In response, the Business Secretary said he believed that we must continue to be a place where workers’ rights and treatment at work are important. He referred to enforcement of the minimum wage and health and safety regulations as areas where adequate powers are in place, but said he recognised that where new practises have developed from new forms of employment, policy may need updating. 

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