Sports Direct, owned by billionaire leisurewear tycoon Mike Ashley, is to close a warehouse in Wigan, Greater Manchester, with the loss of 300 jobs.
In a move described as a “body blow” to the region by the GMB trade union, Sports Direct stunned workers by announcing it would shut the factory on 13 June. Employees, who mostly work packing goods for nationwide distribution, were told of the decision on Monday.
The GMB criticised the decision by the sportswear company, which was exposed in 2016 by the Guardian for making staff work in “Victorian workhouse” conditions.
The GMB regional secretary Paul McCarthy said: “This closure is another body blow for the north-west – caused by a company with a track record of putting profits before people. The hardworking, dedicated staff at the warehouse have already been put through the grinder once when the site was run by [defunct sportswear brand] JJB – and now this.
“GMB will not rest until every member receives the redundancy pay they are legally entitled. Then we will discuss next steps.”
A source told the Guardian that Sports Direct had exercised an option to trigger an early end to a 10-year lease on the warehouse.
One worker, who asked not to be named, told Wigan Today: “It was a bolt from the blue. No one had any inkling it was coming. People were in tears. People have taken out mortgages and now they have no jobs.
The town’s Labour MP Lisa Nandy said: “This is devastating news for hundreds of workers who now face an uncertain future. I have today written to the management of Sports Direct and I am in contact with the GMB trade union. My immediate priority is to ensure all staff, including agency workers, receive the pay and redundancy package they are morally entitled to.”
A spokesperson for Sports Direct was unable to comment.