See below Julie Elliott MP's latest column for the Sunderland Echo:
Although not often reported, a significant amount of work in the House of Commons and House of Lords takes place in inquiries held in Select Committees.
This week, Select Committees have been in the spotlight as Mike Ashley was called to give evidence about working practices at his company, Sports Direct, to the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee. Mr Ashley, hardly the most popular man in our city, had said as late as last week that he would not be attending Parliament to face the Committee but reversed his decision and appeared before MPs on Tuesday.
Mr Ashley claimed that “the value of Sports Direct is the people,” yet the evidence discussed and presented to the BIS Select Committee by Mr Ashley himself and representatives from Unite the Union suggests that there has been a systematic abuse of workers’ rights at the company.
Among the more shocking revelations that emerged from Tuesday’s evidence session were that some staff have been paid less that the minimum wage, around 75% of staff are employed on zero-hour contracts, and staff have faced fines of 15-minutes' pay for every minute that they are late for work.
The outrage at the culture and working practices at Sports Direct shows that we have made great strides for workers’ rights. Many advances have been made over the years in the UK Parliament and European Parliament to improve the working rights people have in our country and because of this, we have equal treatment for full time, part-time and agency workers, paid holidays, a minimum wage and maternity and paternity rights.
Generations have fought hard for these rights but more must be done to further protect them.
I have stood up for working people all my life and will always do so.