Just under ten years ago, a large industrial estate was built with EU regeneration money in Shirebrook, Mansfield, in what was once the north Nottinghamshire coalfield. The estate became home to the vast HQ of sports equipment firm Sports Direct.
The HQ employs around 5,000 people, almost all of them agency workers recruited directly from EU member states. Working conditions there are notorious, with zero hours contracts the norm. A BBC investigation discovered recently that ambulances were called to the site 76 times in nearly two years – 36 of them to “life-threatening illnesses”. Three of the calls regarded pregnancy difficulties, with one woman giving birth in the toilets at work. Former workers claim that employees are too frightened for their jobs to take a day off sick. Accidents in the warehouse have doubled in a year.
This ten-year EU “regeneration” project has contributed to Mansfield recently ranking as the fourth poorest town in Britain, with high benefit dependency and rock bottom wages. Local GPs and hospitals face much increased demand.
This rise in local employment of migrant labour has not led to wages being spent in the local shops and businesses as money is remitted back to Poland and other countries – the town centre is full of empty shops. Effectively, there is an unlimited supply of low-skilled low-wage labour.
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