Woman sacked by text message

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AN angry employee has hit out at Sports Direct after the retail giant sacked her for refusing to work on Saturdays.

Ann Hesford was employed on a zero hours contract processing work at the company’s Wigan warehouse but was abruptly told by text message her services were no longer required.

It’s not a nice thing to get out of the blue. I was still half asleep and it was a lot to take in. I’ve never been dismissed before in my life

Ann Hesford

Mrs Hesford is particularly unhappy about being dismissed for not working at the weekend, when she and her husband help to look after their grandchildren and an elderly relative, after regularly completing gruelling shifts and working more than 50 hours each week.

She also blasted the way her firing was handled and said she was shocked by the sudden turn of events, having never previously been sacked from a job in her career.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue criticised the company after being made aware of Mrs Hesford’s case, describing their working practices as “more akin to a Dickensian workhouse than a FTSE 100 company.”

Mrs Hesford, 62, said: “It was 8am on a Sunday morning and they sent me a text saying I was inflexible and Sports Direct were releasing me from my assignment.

“It’s not a nice thing to get out of the blue. I was still half asleep and it was a lot to take in. I’ve never been dismissed before in my life.

“They expected you to do one Saturday in two but I refused because I have other commitments at the weekend.

“I think the way they have handled it is disgusting. Sacking someone by text message is just not fair, they should have told me face to face. It’s all very impersonal, as though you don’t exist.

“I thought everything was OK there and then they just go and do things that way, which is very upsetting. It just seems to be the way the world works now, unfortunately.” Mrs Hesford, of Kirkham Road, says every time she missed a Saturday shift she was given a point on the company’s marking scheme, and when she reached a certain number of points her employment there was terminated, though she does not know exactly how many she racked up.

She was found the work at Sports Direct’s Martland Mill warehouse by agency Transline, her third stint working with the retail company.

She began working there in May and described the long hours and uncertainty of agency work, saying she rarely knew in advance what time she had to start or how long she would be working.

She said: “You got a text message every evening when you finished to say what time you would be in the following day.

“Sometimes you didn’t know until 6pm or 7pm when you would be in, and it was usually between 6am and 8am start times.

“It always said your shift had been confirmed from a time until the finish.

“There was never a finish time.

“We regularly did 10 and 11-hour shifts and would work 50 to 55 hours a week, and then they expected you to work Saturdays as well.”

Mrs Hesford says she now wants to warn other people about working for companies such as Sports Direct, which was also the subject of a highly-critical TV documentary looking at its employment practices and treatment of employees earlier this year.

She said: “For someone living on their own losing their job at this time of year would be absolutely catastrophic.

“People need to be careful where they work, and if it’s for someone like Sports Direct do everything by the letter. A lot of people have commitments at weekends and if they do the same as me they will lose their jobs.

“Some people will also be working because they are frightened of losing their job, and I don’t think that’s right.”

Ms Fovargue who has long campaigned for changes to zero hours contracts, said: “Reports of this type are far too common an occurrence at Sports Direct. To be told by text that you are fired is completely unacceptable.

“Low paid workers on zero hours contracts and examples of working conditions that are more akin to a Dickensian workhouse than a FTSE 100 company continue to hit the headlines with bosses making mega bonuses on the back of shocking employment practices.”

A Transline spokesperson said: “We send our deepest apologies to Ann. This is not usual practice and, unfortunately, in this instance our strict company policy was not followed.

“Sports Direct were not at fault for this inappropriate action. Transline has reviewed its processes and has consulted with the employees involved to ensure that company policy is followed and we avoid anything like this happening again.”