LONDON — British fast-fashion e-tailer Asos, clearly outraged at complaints made last week by U.K. trade union GMB claiming that it exploits its factory workers in Barnsley, Yorkshire, has gone on the offensive. This week, its chief executive officer Nick Beighton posted a six-page defense of its practices on the company’s web site.
“I’m disappointed that inaccurate and misleading things have been said about how we manage our warehouse at Barnsley in Yorkshire,” said Beighton. “We want every single person who works with Asos directly, or for one of our partners, to have a great experience and feel respected and valued. Where we’ve been able, we have tried to set the record straight, but some misrepresentation continues. I lead the Asos management team, so I know how seriously we take our responsibilities as an employer. I take huge exception to the idea that we are secretive and exploit our people. We have nothing to hide and much to be proud of.”
Last week, the GMB issued a statement in reaction to a Buzzfeed News investigation accusing Asos of health and safety violations and improper monitoring and surveillance practices with regard to staff. Buzzfeed reported that Asos employees were working under stressful conditions and had been issued contracts that allowed the company to terminate their roles without notice and dock pay for last-minute shift cancellations.
“We don’t pretend to be perfect and we are learning all the time,” said Beighton. “We learn, reset and go again. That’s the way we do things at Asos. Hopefully this summary will dispel the allegations that are upsetting to me personally and to everyone who works at Asos, particularly our colleagues in Barnsley. I hope this helps everyone to appreciate that at Asos we have nothing to hide and are committed 100 percent to being a good employer. On behalf of all our people, we resent the misleading things that have been said about us. That we care about our people is beyond doubt and I’d like to thank every single one of them.”
The company noted that it “takes the welfare of the people who work at Asos very seriously,” and asserted that it had “strong values” to which they “walk these values everyday, not just talk them” and that they are not “empty words.” The company also laid out its policies and procedures including wages and working conditions and noted that managers are “available for that engagement” as they “have nothing to hide and a great deal to be proud of.”
Asos confirmed it has “not and never used zero-hours contracts.” They have shortened the new employee probation time from six months to three, and upgraded their time tracking program to “accurately record lateness, so employees are paid for every single minute they are working.” Performance targets, the company said, “are set at industry standards and rates” and are “constantly reviewed.”
Another complaint targeted security searches, to which the company said that they “recognize this highly emotive issue and if handled insensitively, is invasive and offensive.” The e-tailer stated that only two percent of its employees are searched every day in a workforce of 4,000 employees. The company added that monthly meetings are held for employee feedback on “potential facility and policy improvements,” while regularly scheduled meetings are conducted to address opinions and ideas to the management team.