WORKING conditions at Asos’s Barnsley logistics warehouse, where the online fashion giant employs 4,000 staff, have come under scrutiny following an investigation.
A damning report by popular media and content creation company Buzzfeed criticised working hours and the pressure on operatives at its Grimethorpe warehousing facility near Barnsley – a former colliery site.
It said that hourly performance targets at the company which made more than £1bn in global sales last year were excessive, technological malfunctions were common, it accuses Asos of penalising staff that go off sick or have to deal with childcare issues.
An unnamed worker currently employed on site reportedly said that management treat staff like “slaves” and “machines” – as zero-hour working contracts have been put under the spotlight. Buzzfeed said that flexible working benefitted Asos rather than employees and staff feared taking breaks or going to the toilet incase they missed targets.
This comes in the wake of allegations of poor working practices at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook facility, just down the road in Derbyshire.
Both are populated with temporary staff provided by Brighouse-based recruitment firm Transline which has come under fire for its part in the Shirebrook fiasco.
Logistics firm XPO manages the warehouse operations.
A Transline spokesperson said: “As ASOS and XPO have also publicly stated, there are a number of allegations about the working conditions at the Barnsley facility that are inaccurate, misleading or based on out of date information.
“We remain fully committed to providing all our current and future employees with safe and rewarding job roles. Their well being will always be a driving force in our work – without our people, we do not have a business.”
Union GMB said that the media organisation’s investigations proved that Asos is “stressful, invasive and deeply exploitative.”
GMB said the investigation followed a campaign that raised concerns from GMB members at the site over various health and safety issues including hot working conditions and a lack of access to water and toilets.
It said that Asos staff are subject to “unnecessary levels” of surveillance with an increasing number of security cameras, frequent random searches and security checks between the warehouse floor and toilets.
GMB has written to the Business Select Committee asking for the site to be investigated.
Neil Derrick, GMB Regional Secretary, 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.
“Health and safety issues, round the clock, in-your-face surveillance, impossible targets and unfair contracts have created a damaging, anxiety-ridden workplace and our members have been under the cosh for too long.
“GMB calls on the Business Select Committee to investigate these incidents as a matter of urgency before any more harm can be done to the workforce at ASOS.”
In the four months to June 2016, Asos’s sales topped £514.6m, a 30% increase from the same period the year before.