Should retail employees have board representation?
In an unusual move, a 30-year old store manager was appointed the first worker representative on the board of Sports Direct, the U.K.’s largest sporting goods chain.
Alex Balacki will attend all scheduled board meetings over the next 12 months. The 13-year employee will not gain voting rights.
The company conducted an internal review to name three candidates. Mr. Balacki was then nominated in a vote of the retailers’ 23,000 workers. A different employee, from Sports Direct’s warehouse operations or headquarters, will become a board rep next year.
Said Mike Ashley, owner and CEO, “I’d like to be the first to congratulate Alex, who will help us to continue to make a positive difference by ensuring that your voice is heard in the boardroom.”
Mr. Balacki said: “I’m very proud to be chosen by my fellow members of staff to fulfill this important responsibility. I’d like to thank everybody who took part in the elections, including all of the other candidates. It’s now my role to ensure the people of Sports Direct are heard.”
Sports Direct said it would add a worker’s representative last September after facing a series of complaints over working conditions. The issues included zero-hour contracts, in which a worker is on call but may not receive any hours; an investigation over minimum-wage violations; and a harsh penalty system at a warehouse.
The United Kingdom’s prime minister, Theresa May, caused a stir in business circles early last year after calling for companies to put workers on boards. She later backtracked on her push after U.K. executives raised concerns about confidentiality and diluting the board’s primary responsibility of acting in the interests of shareholders. In Germany, however, worker representation on boards is common.
- Workers’ Representative – Sports Direct
- From Saturday boy to board member: Sports Direct names the man whose job is to speak up for workers – Telegraph
- Sports Direct has chosen a 30-year-old Barnstaple shop manager to stand up for staff at the company – Business Insider
- Theresa May backtracks on putting workers on company boards – Telegraph
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are you in favor of worker representation on retailer boards? How might such a policy affect a board’s responsibility to the company’s shareholders?