266 union officials are striking after JJB founder and ex-chairman David Whelan branded them 'communists' during discussions over pay.

The GMB Britain's General Union members who work at JJB's Wigan distribution depot will hold two days of strikes on Tuesday 31 October and Thursday 2 November after rejecting the firm's offer of a pay offer of 3%.

There will also be a continuous overtime ban and a work to rule from the morning of 31 October, GMB said.

The warehouse is the only one that supplies merchandise to all 430 of the sports goods chain's stores in Britain's high streets.

GMB wants a guaranteed basic rate for all warehouse workers plus equal access to a bonus scheme.

At present, there are different pay rates for different groups of workers.

However, Whelan is said to have called the pay system workers were referring to as the equivalent of communism

He has now reportedly jetted off on a three-week holiday to Barbados, stopping the pay talks from progressing.

GMB Lancashire region organiser Sandra Blight said: "I am very disappointed that Mr Whelan is not listening to his loyal workers and that he resorts to calling them names rather than facing up to the problems he has in the pay system.

"JJB Sports workers could not be clearer about their wishes regarding pay. They want a higher guaranteed basic wage for all workers in the warehouse and equal access to a bonus scheme for all workers.

"What is really galling is that in negotiations with his senior management team we seemed to have got acceptance of this in principle before Mr Whelan stepped in to end the negotiations."

Whelan is the largest shareholder of JJB and  also owns Wigan Rugby League Club and Wigan AFC.