Union seeks talks with Transline owners over unpaid backpay

Unite the Union is seeking urgent talks with the new owners of Transline over outstanding backpay owed to workers, which the labour procurer supplied to sports retailer Sports Direct.

Transline, who along with The Best Connection (TBC), supplied over 3,000 agency workers to work for Sports Direct in its Shirebrook warehouse. 

Providing evidence to the government’s Future of World of Work inquiry in Parliament in March, Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of Unite, told the business, energy and industrial strategy committee that Transline had refused to honour their part of an agreement made last August to award workers around £1m backpay after it emerged some Sports Direct workers had been paid less than the legal amount.

While Turner revealed both Best Connection and Sports Direct had honoured the agreement, he expressed concerns that Transline was refusing to refund unpaid wages from the period before it took over contracts from blue-collar recruiter Blue Arrow in 2014. 

In March, a Transline spokesperson told Recruiter that all back payments had been made to Transline employees over the period in question. However, for the employees that worked for Blue Arrow and then transferred to Transline, it had been working with HM Revenue & Customs and was awaiting their guidance on how TUPE applies to the period that those employees worked for Blue Arrow. The spokesperson added Transline would act according to HMRC's feedback as soon it was received.

Late yesterday, Recruiter reported how Wirral-headquartered recruitment group Russell Taylor Holdings had bought Transline Group after Transline filed a notice of intention (NOI) to appoint administrators in a bid to protect the business.

Asked whether Transline had paid the outstanding backpay to the affected workers, a spokesperson for Unite told Recruiter it would be seeking urgent talks with the acquiring company as they claimed Transline had not paid the outstanding backpay adding: “We believe they need to meet their obligations. HMRC has got to order Transline to cough up.”

In a strongly-worded follow-up statement, released this afternoon, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Neither Transline, or its new owner Russell Taylor, should be allowed to dodge their responsibilities to their workers…

“At Sports Direct we call on Transline’s new owner to put the past behind the controversial employment agency and immediately pay the back pay owed for non-payment of the minimum wage.

“Unite will be approaching Russell Taylor in an attempt to resolve this and other matters hanging over from the deplorable antics of Transline’s past.

“In the meantime we would urge HMRC to back up our call and order Transline to pay up and meet its responsibilities to workers who have been so shamelessly exploited.”

Recruiter contacted Russell Taylor Group about whether it plans to pay the outstanding backpay but was told they would not able to comment further than yesterday's release at this time.

Working practices at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook site came under scrutiny in October 2015 from the BBC's Inside Out programme, under which staff could be fired for accruing ‘strikes’ for spending too long in the toilet, excessive chatting or taking a day off sick, prompting subsequent investigations from Parliament and an internal one from Sports Direct, which resulted in the suspension of the six strikes policy.

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