Mandate condemns Heatons/Sports Direct as they use COVID-19 crisis to victimise workers

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Mandate Trade Union has condemned billionaire owner of Heatons/Sports Direct, Mike Ashley, for forcing some of their Irish staff to work behind closed doors on reduced hours during the national coronavirus emergency.

Mandate members in several stores have reported that management have instructed them to attend work but have reduced their hours from more than 30 per week to just four hours per week, which prevents them from accessing the COVID-19 payment or other social welfare payments.

Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary, said: “Heatons staff earn just over €10 per hour. Does Billionaire Mr Ashley expect workers to survive on €40 per week?”

He added, “The majority of these workers are long serving employees of Heatons from before Sports Direct took over the company. Many of them believe Sports Direct are trying to rid the company of long serving staff by financially forcing them out”

Mr Light explained the concerns of the many of the Heatons/Sports Direct workers:
“Many workers are concerned about how they’re going to pay their bills and some are even worried they may lose their homes if this crisis continues for several weeks and they continue to receive 4 hours per week.

“This is a classic example of a billionaire exploiting an international health crisis at the expense of low paid workers who have been loyal to his business for years,” he said.

“Frankly it defies belief that this UK billionaire, who refused to close Sports Direct stores on the first day of the UK coronavirus lockdown, is acting in such a cavalier and reckless manner towards his staff in the Republic of Ireland,” said Mr Light.

Mandate is calling on Mike Ashley to do the right thing and immediately shut down operations in line with government guidelines issued yesterday.