Sports Direct warehouse employee (s) who say they are unhappy with their working conditions are being identified by their fingerprints and asked to explain their grievances to management, according to the trade union Unite.
A recent article in the Guardian by Rob Davies titled Sports Direct workers invited to press sad or happy emboli clocking in highlights the way the company is now measuring the attitude of its employees whilst at work whilst ensuring it is brought to the attention of their manager so that the necessary action can be taken but is this an effective way to do this?
Matthew of Consensus HR comments “Business owners should surely not need the use of such gadgets to measure the attitude of their employees and should be down to the relationship they have with their teams. Regular constructive meetings / six monthly performance reviews should take place where the employee has the opportunity to have an honest, open & frank conversation with their manager where SMART objectives are set and any feedback received actioned upon. This should take place in a mutually friendly environment and not the manager’s office or an office where Disciplinaries generally take place.
Depending on the size of the company, a company could also get the team to nominate employee representatives and attend a monthly / quarterly meeting to discuss employee issues in a non-confrontational, anonymous way. An employee survey could also be conducted anonymously if required. However if the company culture is not correct you will still only be told what you want to hear and not the real feelings amongst the team. Too many times business owners / managers are extremely busy and do not have the time to manage correctly which results in a demotivated workforce who ultimately is one of their main business assets.”
The leisurewear company introduced a staff survey system at its Shirebrook warehouse, Derbyshire, which was at the centre of allegations of “gulag” conditions last year after a Guardian investigation.
When the warehouse’s 3,500 workers clock in, they are asked to press a touchpad featuring a happy or sad face Emoji to indicate whether they are satisfied with working conditions.
If they press sad, they are asked whether they are sure about their decision and, if they press it again, they can be called in by managers to discuss why they did so.
Staff can be identified because the touchpad uses fingerprint recognition technology to identify those who express discontent.
Unite said the staff survey system was “bogus” because workers were unlikely to be candid about their feelings if they could then be singled out for questioning.
“Would you risk having hours withheld, possibly losing your job and being called in by management because you indicated dissatisfaction with your work environment?”
Turner described the survey as “a bogus exercise to gloss over past failures and some of the problems” which he said still persisted at the warehouse.
Frank Field, the Labour MP who chairs of the work and pensions select committee, said an anonymous feedback system would be better.
“All it will reveal is how brave some staff are,” he said. “We ought to extend it to MPs and see how they feel about Sports Direct.”
Shirebrook became the focus of a parliamentary inquiry last year after a Guardian investigation revealed dismal working conditions, including body searches, pay below the minimum wage and constant fear of sacking for minor transgressions.
Unite said conditions were still poor and that the “vast majority” of workers were on contracts that guaranteed no more than 336 hours a year.
“With reports from agency workers of crowded aisles, defective warehouse equipment and products stacked dangerously high, we know that health and safety is still a major cause for concern,” said Turner.
“Gimmicks like using Emojis do not escape the fact that Sports Direct’s reliance on thousands of insecure agency workers still poses a reputational risk or that many are still owed money for non-payment of the minimum wage.
“Sports Direct still has a long way to go to clean its act up and risks the charge of ‘business as usual’ until it makes temporary agency workers direct permanent employees.
Sports Direct said it had put in place multiple ways to protect staff and allow them to provide feedback.
“We believe these comments by Unite do not accurately reflect the position at Sports Direct,” said a spokesperson. “We have a range of different measures in place to protect staff. These include a comprehensive system for staff to provide detailed feedback via an initiative called your company, your voice, plus a workers representative who attends meetings of the board.”
Sports Direct also had a “staff listening group, a staff health and safety committee and a staff wellbeing service”, said the spokesperson.
“Whilst we are disappointed with Unite’s stance we will continue to engage with the union, and we recently contacted Unite on this basis.”
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