Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Victorian workhouse" warehouse conditions leaves Sports Direct under fire

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Sports Direct retail location

      Sports Direct, the leading sporting goods retailer in the United Kingdom came under fire when employees of the warehouse began to speak out against the company. This caused the government to step in and investigate the claims made by the employees. The main issue was that Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, was not paying temporary workers at least minimum wage. He was violating the law by not paying them enough. Other issues involved making the employees sign "zero-hours" contracts where they were never guaranteed working hours from the warehouse. This gave Sports Direct complete power over the employees. Many employees also were too afraid of losing their job so they would not call out of work sick or take vacations. This culture lead to three women giving birth in the restroom of Sports Direct warehouse because they were too afraid of losing their job to go to the hospital. Mike Ashley admitted to knowing about the issue with minimum wage but declined knowing about the other issues even though he visited the warehouse at least once a week. There were also various penalties for anything employees did. If they clocked in one minute late, they were docked 15 minutes by the manager (The Guardian). They were also subjected to full body searches before leaving work every day, and not payed for the time they had to wait to be searched. All of these issues eventually came out and Sports Direct was sued by the employees. Sports Direct had to pay back pay to all of the people they were underpaying and made some drastic changes to their daily operations and how they treated their employees.
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Workers protest their "Zero hours" contracts


   Stakeholders are anyone who is directly affected by the actions of the company. In this case, the stakeholders are; the employees, managers, senior managers, stockholders and customers. The employees are the most directly affected as they were the ones who were mistreated. Managers were affected because they were managing the warehouse staff poorly which led to the lawsuit and major changes to come. Senior management were the ones giving the direction to manage this way or at minimum, allowed it to happen and continue. They knew they were not paying some people enough, yet continued to allow it. Customers are affected because they may not want to shop at a store that treats people this way. If I knew a company treated people, this poorly I would not shop there. Also, prices can be affected as now their costs are rising by paying people more. This can affect the customer's choice on where to shop. The final stakeholders are the shareholders as they invested in the company and potentially lost money when the stock prices dropped after the scandal came out. The company is now looked at in a different view as more evidence comes out; "Sports Direct branded a 'sweatshop' with working conditions compared to Victorian era workhouse" ( Everyone who has a part in the company will be affected by the controversy.

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Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley in court after allegations against him
    Kant's theory for the Formula of Humanity suggests that a person should never act if it does not respect others and is only benefiting the person making the action. In this case, Mike Ashley did not respect all others when deciding to under pay his employees. He was also well- aware of the working conditions within the warehouse, yet did nothing to fix them. By allowing these conditions, he had no respect for the warehouse employees or the shareholders because he knew it would affect his company negatively if he was caught.

     The main idea of Individualism is that when someone makes a decision, they make it to amplify profit for the shareholders, as long as it follows the law. Mike Ashley acted unlawful when he decided to pay people less than minimum wage. He knew this was against the law, yet allowed it to continue. He could have easily corrected this but knew he was saving money. It was in the best interest for the company and the shareholders, but it was not within the rules of the law, therefore an individualist would not say this was the right decision.
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Founder Mike Ashley walking through his warehouse 
     Utilitarianism’s idea of the right choice or action is the one that creates the most happiness for the most amount of people involved. Had the shareholders known about the scandal beforehand, I think they would not have been happy giving the company their money. But assuming everything was going well, they invested. Many employees were left unhappy, therefore this action, to treat employees as commodities instead of human beings, was not the right action according to Utilitarianism. Too many people were left unhappy by their actions. Therefore, this was not the right action.

Virtue Theory
     Virtue Theory suggests that a person must use good judgment when making a decision. They must do what they believe is right. There are four virtues of character that define if someone is moral; Courage, honesty, temperance and justice. Mike Ashley did not use courage when committing these acts, as he just allowed them to happen instead of stepping in and stopping it. He was not honest when he said he was unaware of the working conditions in the warehouse, yet visited the warehouse at least once a week. He showed no temperance or justice when he underpaid warehouse workers because he thought he could get away with it and it was against the law, and very unfair to the employees. No aspect of this scandal would have been acceptable according to Virtue theory.

Ashby, Jonathan. Goodley, Simon. “Revealed: how Sports Direct effectively pays below minimum wage”. The Guardian. Web. Dec. 9 2015.
 Creighton, Sam. “Sports Direct branded a 'sweatshop' with working conditions compared to Victorian era and bosses are accused of punishing employees if they talk”. Daily Web. 2015. “Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley admits pay errors”. Web. June 7 2016.

Dean, Jon, Smith, Mikey. “Mike Ashley admits Sports Direct workers paid below minimum wage and on prepaid debit cards”. Web. June 7, 2016

Rodionova, Zlata. “The 7 most shocking testimonies from workers at Sports Direct”. Web. July 22, 2016.

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