Direct chatting hot

Describing working conditions at Sports Direct as 'Victorian', assistant general secretary of Unite Steve Turner said:'You're given a strike if you don't attend work, so people attend work when they shouldn't be at work – that's the reality of this.

He told staff he had agreed to appear before the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BIS) Committee to 'defend the good name of Sports Direct and all of yourselves.

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At one point Mr Ashley, who quit education at the age of 16 to launch his Sports Direct empire, appeared to confess that he had lost control of the business due to the unexpected boom in internet shopping, which led to him employing thousands of agency workers.

Mr Ashley, accompanied by his PR boss Keith Bishop, also accepted that 80 per cent of his staff were on the controversial zero-hours contracts - where workers are not guaranteed a set number of hours per week - but said he wanted to see more on full-time contracts.

Mr Primarolo said: 'You can have strikes for spending too long in the toilet, you can have a strike for excessive chatting.