On 18th March Youth Fight For Jobs supporters in Birmingham mounted a protest against Sports Direct’s Dickensian working practices at the Birmingham City vs Newcastle United game. Newcastle and Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has built a business based on rampant use of zero hours contracts for shop and warehouse staff, poverty pay, and workhouse-like conditions at the firm’s Shirebrook warehouse.
The warehouse has become notorious even in today’s super-casualised job market. Practices include intrusive searches of staff on entry and exit and a six strikes disciplinary policy which led to one woman worker giving birth in the toilets, as she was unable to afford to take (unpaid) time off while pregnant.
After these practices were exposed by Unite the Union’s campaigning to get Sports Direct exposed in the press and in front of a parliamentary committee, Ashley generously promised to give his minimum wage employees a pay rise – of 15p an hour!
The protest consisted of passing out leaflets to home and away fans on their way into the ground. On one side was a hort summary of Sports Direct’s shameful treatment of it’s employees, whilst on the other was a sign calling on fans to boycott Sports Direct, to be held up five minutes before kickoff.
When it came to it, Newcastle fans all too eager to take anything laying into Mike Ashley! Despite being eager to get to their seats, a good number of Birmingham fans were also keen to take a leaflet after seeing that we were taking a stand against what many workers increasingly recognise as one of the worst of a bad bunch when it comes to high street employers.
Reports from inside the ground say that over 100 fans held up the leaflet before kick off. But most importantly was the chance to raise the idea among young workers that low wages and bad conditions can be fought
Youth Fight For Jobs stands for the following, and works with trade unions to make it a reality:
- A living wage of £10 an hour
- An end to zero hours contracts, with holiday, maternity and sick pay
- Full employment rights from day one to protect against unfair dismissal and management bullying
- An end to the parasitic wideboys running our football clubs, with genuine fan ownership and control “