Sport & Leisure

Government urges Sports Direct and JD Wetherspoon to support employees

Boris Johnson has warned Sports Direct CEO Mike Ashley to “expect consequences” if he does not follow the recent guidelines amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah raised the question during today’s Prime Minister’s Questions after reports that Ashley was still asking employees to still come to work at the high street retailer.

The Labour MP said: “The people of Newcastle are desperately trying to do the right thing, although my inbox tells me they are angry, confused, running out of money, isolated and stranded in some cases.

“However, not all businesses are doing the right thing and I am particularly thinking of Mike Ashley forcing workers into empty Sports Direct shops. The Prime Minister said that businesses should stand with their staff. What is his message to those who don’t?”

The news follows after reports of JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin sent a video to his employees at the pub chain and said they would face delays in payment and “should consider getting a job at Tesco instead”.

Martin said the company would not cover wages from this week and employees would have to wait to be paid through the government’s new coronavirus retination scheme.

On the same day (25 March), the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee wrote to both Mike Ashley and Tim Martin, asking both business owners to set out measures in which their companies will support workers during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Rachel Reeves, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee, said: “Sports Direct and JD Wetherspoons are big names on our high streets, relying on the dedication and hard-work of their staff and the trust of customers for their success. 

“At times of national crisis, it’s vital that businesses step up, do the right thing and stand by their workers and their customers.” 

She added: “When many businesses are undertaking great work to support the national effort, it’s crucial that companies such as JD Wetherspoons and Sports Direct do all they can ensure their workers are properly protected and get the pay to which they are entitled.”

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