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Accusations made of Mike Ashley making Sports Direct staff work whilst on furlough – Report

5 months ago
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Mike Ashley flew back into the UK on his private plane eight days ago, the plane landing at Luton after travelling from the States.

The retail empire / NUFC owner having fled the country in March during this virus crisis for his second home in Miami, after disgracing himself with his behaviour in regard to both football club and his Frasers Group (formerly Sports Direct International Group) empire.

Mike Ashley of course shamed himself when trying to keep the Sports Direct stores open during the virus crisis by claiming they were ‘essential’, only for the government to force him to close them.

Two days before he arrived back in the UK, Mike Ashley released an official statement via his Frasers Group PLC (formerly Sports Direct International Group) revealing that he/they have finally resolved the 674m euros (£605million) dispute with the Belgian tax authorities.

The statement also indicated there were other major issues confronting his retail empire: ‘Frasers Group would also note that it has currently not been accepted as eligible for the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).’

The Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) is what the government introduced to help support businesses affected by the virus situation.

With his billionaire retail empire wobbling badly, no wonder Mike Ashley is now back in the UK, wondering just how much damage he did in terms of negative PR own goals, with his appalling actions in the early days of the virus crisis.

He will now be throwing everything at saving his retail empire and many Newcastle fans are connecting this with the impending NUFC takeover, with Mike Ashley able to put £300m+ in his back pocket from the sale of Newcastle United, which will obviously come in handy when it comes to whatever steps he intends to take regarding his retail empire.

However, just as the high street appears to be set to open up gradually once again in the coming weeks, Mike Ashley is now facing a potentially massive new setback.

A new report in The Guardian carries accusations that the Mike Ashley ran Sports Direct and House of Fraser chains have asked the store managers to work at least once a week, despite being under the government’s furlough scheme.

The newspaper stating:

‘Staff told the Guardian they had been asked to volunteer to go into stores about one day a week since the entire store team were put on furlough last month.

Two managers said they had been told not to clock on when they worked in stores while on furlough – seemingly in breach of the rules of the scheme, under which the government covers 80% of staff pay. They said they had been asked to pack up store stock so it could be returned to the group’s warehouse and sold online.’

If these accusations are proved to be true, there could be massive repercussions for Mike Ashley and his business empire. Both in terms of action taken by the government if it is shown the terms of their furlough scheme have been broken, as well as the PR impact with the general public considering where to spend their money once options open up again on the high street, with so many people appalled at how certain very rich individuals and their businesses have acted during the virus crisis.

The Guardian also state that Mike Ashley and his Frasers Group management had been trying to force staff to return to work today (Monday 4 May 2020) on reduced pay, only to do a u-turn when they realised the news had got into the public domain:

‘Ashley’s managers had also been asked to return to work – on reduced pay – on Monday, but the company did a U-turn on Sunday after the Guardian published details of the plan.

‘Last week, staff were asked to return to work full time on Monday. In a conference call and messages to workers, seen by the Guardian, Ashley’s Frasers Group asked Sports Direct and House of Fraser managers to return from furlough full time on Monday on 90% pay.

They were told they were required in stores 10 hours a day on at least five days a week to return stock to the retail group’s warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, so that it could be sold online and to prepare stores for physical distancing measures for when they are allowed to reopen.

Managers were told that Frasers had seen non-food stores being allowed to open again in mainland Europe and believed the UK government could release shops from lockdown within three weeks.

But some managers told the Guardian they did not want to return to work on less pay while they feared being at risk of contracting coronavirus and did not believe they would be provided with sufficient protective kit or social distancing measures.

On Sunday afternoon after the Guardian published details of the plan, managers said they had been told they no longer had to return to work.’

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