Oust ex-police chief as chairman, Sports Direct shareholders urged

SHAREHOLDERS at Sports Direct are to be urged to vote against the re-election of the company’s chairman amid controversy over the treatment of workers.

Keith Hellawell
Keith Hellawell

The Trade Union Share Owners group (TUSO) will make the call at the firm’s annual meeting next week.

The group, a coalition of trade union funds, said former police chief Keith Hellawell had failed to tackle issues such as extensive use of zero-hours contracts.

There was also criticism of Mr Hellawell following the collapse of Sports Direct’s subsidiary company USC earlier this year, said TUSO.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Shareholders and workers both h

ave an interest in reform at Sports Direct. We all want to see a successful business, but this success needs to be built on strong governance and good employment practices, not zero-hours contracts.

“Mr Hellawell is ultimately responsible for the performance of his board and must be held accountable for its actions. Without root-and-branch changes Sports Direct’s reputation will continue to be dragged through the mud.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “There are serious questions about the corporate governance and employment practices of Sports Direct.

“An estimated 3,000 agency workers are on zero-hours contracts at its Shirebrook depot, earning just above the minimum wage and being subjected to working conditions that are more akin to a workhouse than a FTSE 100 company.

“Separately, by Mr Hellawell’s own admission, a further 75% of staff across its UK stores are also on zero-hours contracts, with Sports Direct accounting for a fifth of all such contracts in the retail sector.

“These employment practices combined with weak corporate governance mean a change of chair is needed to lead reform of Sports Direct and avoid lasting reputational damage.”

The annual meeting is on September 9.

Huddersfield-born Mr Hellawell is a former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, who became the New Labour government’s “drugs czar” in 1998.