JD Sports and Asos warehouses compared to ‘dark satanic mills’ amid concerns over working conditions

Ambulances called out almost once a week to sites in Barnsley and Rochdale

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 07 May 2019 10:06 BST
JD Sports recently reported record annual sales of £4.7bn
JD Sports recently reported record annual sales of £4.7bn

Warehouses run by two of Britain’s biggest clothing retailers have been compared to “dark satanic mills” after dozens of ambulance call-outs for staff.

A JD Sports site in Rochdale and Asos’ warehouse in Barnsley each received almost one emergency medical visit per week last year, raising concerns about conditions for workers.

Companies including Sports Direct and Amazon have previously come under fire for alleged poor treatment of workers at UK warehouses.

“The warehouses of some companies risk becoming the dark satanic mills of the 21st century,” said Matt Draper, of the Unite union.

“It doesn’t have to be this way though. Where employers work with trade unions and treat people with respect there are fewer accidents and a better health and safety record.”

Figures gathered by the Press Association revealed that ambulances were dispatched to JD Sports’ Greater Manchester premises 40 times last year and on 117 occasions over the past three years.

Earlier this month JD Sports reported record sales up 49 per cent to £4.7bn for the year.

Asos’ warehouse in Little Houghton, South Yorkshire, which is operated by XPO Logistics, received 148 callouts including 45 last year.

Veteran MP Frank Field, who led criticism of Sports Direct whilst as chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said the figures show the “appalling conditions to which the soft human underbelly of Britain’s labour market is exposed”.

“This sort of thing should have been left behind in the Victorian era.”

A spokesperson for JD Sports said: “Given the scale of our operations, the number of incidents where an ambulance is called each year is very low.

“We have a responsibility to everybody on site, and take no risks when it comes to their safety.”

Asos and XPO Logistics said: “We are an employer that values the safety of our employees above all else.”

“Since 2013, the accident incident rate has declined considerably year-on-year and has remained significantly below the industry standard throughout this period.”

The latest statistics do not reveal the reasons behind why the ambulances were called and the companies say that many of the instances are likely to have been for non-work-related issues.

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Both companies have previously faced allegations over poor treatment of workers, with a 2016 probe revealing paramedics had attended Asos’ main warehouse to deal with back injuries, psychiatric issues and fits.

JD launched its own internal investigation in the same year after an undercover film showed staff allegedly paid less than the minimum wage and treated “like cattle”, in the words of former MP Iain Wright.

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