Asos working conditions to be investigated by MPs

Security measures at the warehouse have reportedly intensified to the extent that workers are searched upon entering the toilets

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The Independent Online

MPs have confirmed that they will investigate allegations about working practices at online fashion retailer Asos.

The news comes after an investigation by Buzzfeed News revealed that workers at an Asos warehouse near Barnsley were treated like “machines”.

Security measures at the warehouse have reportedly intensified to the extent that workers are made to remove their shoes for spot checks and are searched upon entering the toilets.

Asos and global logistics giant XPO, which runs the distribution centre, denied the allegations.

Ian Wright, the chair of the House of Commons business, innovation and skills select committee said: “When I read the article, the reaction from me was this was ominously and depressingly familiar. We really want to eliminate this sort of working practice in Britain.”

The investigation into Asos will be part of the committee's forthcoming Future World of Work general enquiry into employment practices to be launched in January. 

The enquiry will also be looking into employment structures at BHS and Sports Direct.

Responding to the news of the appalling work practices faced by warehouse workers at Asos, Owen Espley, War on Want’s labour rights campaigner said: “Asos has a serious case to answer, its behaviour is disgraceful. Precarious contracts are the root cause of this abuse, with bosses holding all the power workers are too afraid to challenge appalling treatment for fear of losing their job. Only through allowing workers their own voice in a trade union at work can this exploitation be stopped. It’s time to end precarious contracts.”

In August, GMB, one of UK’s largest trade unions, has called on the Business Select Committee to launch an inquiry into working practices at Asos, warning it could become “the next Sports Direct”.

Neil Derrick, regional secretary at GMB , said: “These reports show that employment at ASOS is not only stressful, invasive, and deeply exploitative but is also hazardous to workers’ health. Ignoring the concerns of GMB members has now become downright dangerous.”

Jo Steven,  MP for Cardiff Central, shared her anger on Twitter by labelling the working conditions at Asos as “exploitation”.

In June, The Independent reported that more than 4,000 workers at Asos distribution centre in Yorkshire were subject to constant CCTV surveillance and daily security searches.

A spokerperson for Asos said: “There have been a number of allegations about the working conditions at our warehouse in Barnsley that are inaccurate, misleading or based on out of date information.This upsets us, but more importantly, it upsets the people who work there.“

"Those who seek to portray the warehouse as an awful place to work never mention the positive work we do in conjunction with XPO, like the 50 different learning and development programmes offered, free mental health support and awareness training, subsidised food in a newly renovated canteen, or the £3m spent on a cooling system to keep the temperature down during the summer,“ the company added.