Local councillors write to JD Sports with concerns about conditions for staff in Rochdale warehouse

Date published: 31 March 2020

Rochdale Council cabinet member for Regeneration, Business, Skills and Employment, John Blundell has written to Martin White, Group Logistics Director at JD Sports regarding the conditions for staff at the JD Sport Distribution Centre at Kingsway Business Park.

Over the past two weeks, a number of staff working at the JD warehouse have contacted local councillors with their concerns that the warehouse is a breeding ground for coronavirus, due to poor hygiene and crowded working conditions.

The sports company closed its high-streets shops on 23 March “to protect our employees”. Since then, the company has been offering a number of delivery offers on website purchases, further infuriating its warehouse workers, who say the workload has almost tripled.

Dear Mr White,

This email is from all of the ward councillors of Kingsway and Smallbridge & Firgrove [Councillor Shakil Ahmed, Councillor Daalat Ali, Councillor Elsie Wraighte, Councillor Aftab Hussain and Councillor Amna Mir]. They are copied in to this email.

We are writing to you about the JD Sports Distribution Centre at Kingsway Business Park and the health and safety concerns raised by some of your employees, many of whom are our constituents, during the coronavirus outbreak. JD Sports is by far the largest private sector employer in Rochdale and we recognise the success of your business makes a significant contribution to the local economy.

Whilst we appreciate this is a challenging time for all businesses we are seeking assurances that you are able to continue operations at Kingsway safely and without putting the health and safety of your employees at risk. We understand an officer from the council’s Public Protection Team visited the Distribution Centre at Kingsway earlier this week after receiving several complaints about health and safety standards. During the visit it was evident that many precautions and measures have been introduced to fulfil your responsibilities regarding preventing the spread of COVID 19 which is reassuring, but we think you could go further. We will be asking officers to visit again if we continue to receive complaints.

We are aware the Government guidelines on how businesses should respond to the coronavirus outbreak do not restrict JD Sports from continuing to receive and fulfil online retail orders. However, we are concerned that by maintaining warehouse operations at Kingsway you are requiring a significant number of people to make journeys, to and from work, which are not essential and could also make it difficult for your employees to maintain social distancing and personal hygiene standards.

Can we please ask why you have stayed open during this pandemic, given the offer of Government grants and loans, and why you have not allowed your employees to stay at home to help limit the spread of COVID 19? Don’t do too little too late and be sorry you stayed open.

Kind regards,

Councillor John Blundell
Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Business, Skills and Employment

In response to councillor Blundell's letter, a spokesperson for JD Sports said: “Our priority remains the health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers during this difficult time.

“JD Sports continues to observe the latest Government guidelines for businesses, with the current advice (updated on 27 March 2020) stating that “online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.” We have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the correct safeguards are in place.

“First, we have dramatically reduced the number of colleagues on site by more than 40% to 400 on a day shift and 300 at night. We have increased hygiene and cleaning processes, and have implemented social distancing measures in our distribution centres, in order to minimise any transfer risk at our facilities.

“We can confirm that, on Thursday 26th March 2020, Rochdale Borough Council visited our Distribution Centre to review the safeguards currently in place. The conclusion of this visit was that JD Sports was “currently complying to the best of [its] ability in accordance with current Coronavirus guidelines”. Rochdale Council have been in further contact today to arrange a follow up visit this week. We welcome this visit and look forward to showing them that the necessary precautions are being maintained to the appropriate standard.

“In light of the Council’s positive conclusion, we will continue to act in line with the latest government advice although we are continually monitoring the situation.”

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