A FASHION giant’s recently-posted profits which have rocketed in recent months have come as a result of putting workers’ safety at risk during the coronavirus lockdown, a trade union has claimed.
Grimethorpe-based ASOS’s sales rose by 19 per cent to £3.3bn between January and August of this year - representing profits of £142m - with a rise in online shopping during lockdown cited as a key reason why.
The GMB Union claim the online retailer - whose Park Spring Road warehouse has remained open throughout the pandemic - have put profits before safety with ‘Victorian’ working practices.
Neil Derrick, GMB’s regional secretary, said: “Let’s be clear - the way these monstrous profits have been made is immoral.
“The shareholders’ dividends come from risking the health of workers in the worst pandemic this country has seen since the Spanish flu.
“It’s an almost Victorian work practice, where workers face real risk to their health or they don’t get paid.
“ASOS should immediately use these profits to help implement a safer working environment and better PPE for their petrified staff.
“They should also reward their workers who have needlessly put their lives at risk by pumping this money into a pay rise, it is the very least they deserve.”
A GMB survey of 500 ASOS workers at the start of lockdown revealed 98 per cent of them felt unsafe at work - saying they felt like ‘rats in a ‘cradle of disease’.
ASOS responded to the claims by reiterated there was ‘no risk’ inside its warehouse and there’s never been an outbreak.
“Our profit doesn’t go to our shareholders as we don’t pay a dividend,” a spokesman told the Chronicle. “The profit is invested back in the business.
“We have a highly automated 680,000sq ft site. We have spent millions on social distancing and health protection measures this year.
“It is completely untrue to allege that we haven’t implemented a safe working environment. The warehouse led the industry on social distancing standards, which were adopted and shared by the British Retail Consortium, endorsed by Barnsley Council.
“We have already given staff a 3.3 per cent increase this year to the Living Wage Foundation rate of £9.30. This was negotiated by the recognised union, Community.
We also offer a peak pay incentive to colleagues of additional £1.50 per hour through to January 3 based upon qualifying criteria.”
Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock - whose constituency includes where the ASOS site is - confirmed to the Chronicle that she had written to chief executive Nick Beighton to consider sharing its profits with its workforce.
She spoke with Mr Beighton a number of times throughout lockdown regarding the welfare of workers and is continuing to pay close attention to this issue.
( She said: “Without its warehouse workers in Grimethorpe, ASOS’s record boost to profits would never have happened.
“They deserve a share. I will keep campaigning to make sure that warehouse workers have a coronavirus-secure and safe workplace.”
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Barnsley MP urges firm to share lockdown profit
Author: Josh Timlin
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