£11m BACK PAY FOR ASHLEY

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SPORTS Direct, the infamous zero-hours employer, is asking shareholders to approve £11m in back pay for Mike Ashley’s brother John.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner commented: ‘If Mike Ashley is so concerned about ensuring his brother gets the back pay he says he is entitled to, why not the agency workers at Sport Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse?

‘Many are yet to receive a portion of the back pay owed because of non-payment of the minimum wage and Sports Direct’s refusal to take responsibility and sort it out. Unite submitted a pay claim in August proposing the Real Living Wage, but Sports Direct has yet to meet us to discuss it.

”Does this desire to pay £11m to Mike Ashley’s brother signal a new-found generosity towards all workers, or is it only reserved for family and friends? It would appear to be the latter and smacks of bad business as usual at Sports Direct.’

In September, Unite accused Sports Direct of breaking promises to offer store staff guaranteed hours rather than zero-hours contracts. Unite said the job adverts prove that the retailer is still using zero-hours contracts and not offering guaranteed hours, with ads clearly stating: ‘This role has no guaranteed hours of work, hours of work can therefore vary from week to week and, as a result, there may be weeks when no hours of work are offered.’

In recent months, Sports Direct has bought a 26% stake in Game Digital, increased its stake in Debenhams, acquired lingerie firm Agent Provocateur and snapped up the US sports clothing and outdoor equipment chains Bob’s Stores and Eastern Mountain Sports.

Now Sports Direct is asking shareholders to approve an £11 million payment to the brother of its billionaire founder Mike Ashley, claiming John Ashley has been underpaid for his role in the business for years.

Sports Direct said on Friday that a review by law firm RPC into the role of Ashley’s brother John in the business found he has been underpaid since the company floated in 2007. Sports Direct shareholders have criticised the retailer’s decision to ask investors to approve the £11m payment.

Royal London Asset Management said the retailer had given ‘no evidence or detail explaining why’ the sum was owed to John Ashley.

It would vote against the payment as it was a ‘consequence of poor governance’. The fund manager has a 0.18% stake in Sports Direct worth about £3.7m. Ashley Hamilton Claxton, Royal London’s head of responsible investment, said: ‘If appropriate governance measures were in place at Sports Direct in the first place, there would have been a clear and transparent process for paying John Ashley what he was due and there would be no need to review his compensation after the fact.

‘Investors need to see a plausible reason as to why John Ashley is owed money, not how much he is owed.’