MP Iain Wright has waded into the row surrounding working conditions at Asos’s warehouse, labelling them “depressingly familiar”.
The chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, which led the probe into working practices at Sports Direct, said the working conditions allegedly exposed at the site in Barnsley were “exactly the sort of practices that the commitee wants to explore”.
A report by BuzzFeed made a string of stinging claims against Asos, including alleging that workers at the fashion etailer’s Barnsley warehouse are unable to take regular toilet or water breaks and security on site is intrusive and “embarrassing”.
BuzzFeed claimed warehouse staff are treated “like machines”, following a three-month probe by the online media outlet.
It comes just a month after the etailer, which has grown rapidly since it launched 16 years ago, was forced to deny similar concerns raised by Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith.
Wright said: “The working conditions exposed at Asos are depressingly familiar and are exactly the sort of practices that the Committee wants to explore as part of our forthcoming ’Future world of work’ inquiry. We want to see record numbers of people in work, and as consumers we want to grab a bargain and have online purchases delivered speedily and at our convenience, but such demands shouldn’t be at the cost of exploiting people or treating them with contempt and a lack of dignity in their workplaces.”
Asos has hit out at the allegations, claiming they are “inaccurate” and “misleading”.
In a statement, the retailer said: “There have been a number of allegations about the working conditions at our warehouse in Barnsley that are inaccurate, misleading or based on out-of-date information.”
It added: “This upsets us, but more importantly, it upsets the people who work there. Those who seek to portray the warehouse as an awful place to work never mention the positive work we do in conjunction with XPO, like the 50 different learning and development programmes offered, free mental health support and awareness training, subsidised food in a newly renovated canteen, or the £3 million spent on a cooling system to keep the temperature down during the summer.
“Ultimately, Asos and XPO both care deeply about our people and that’s why we have chosen to partner with them”.
Logistics giant XPO, which runs the distribution centre, said it was “disappointed” by the “false allegations”.
A spokeswoman added: “To correct the record, the number of comfort breaks an employee takes is not a factor in evaluating performance. We are also fully compliant with the national minimum wage and national living wage, and do not employ anyone in our warehouses on a zero-hours contract.
“The wellbeing of the team working in Barnsley is very important to us. As such, we have an onsite occupational nurse, a physiotherapist and have recently invested £3m in a cooling project to improve temperatures in the warehouse during the summer period.”
Trade union GMB has called on Parliament’s Business, Innovation and Skills Committee to investigate the claims as “a matter of urgency”.