THE Labour party has clashed with supermarket giant Tesco over claims made by a senior MP about recruiting foreign workers.
Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant is set to highlight the activities of Tesco in a speech attacking “unscrupulous employers” who recruit cheap labour from Eastern Europe.
In a speech today, he will claim the supermarket moved its distribution centre to Kent where a “large percentage” of the staff are from the former Eastern bloc.
But the supermarket denied having a distribution centre in the county and it is understood the firm will write to Labour to complain about the “unfair” attack.
According to extracts of today’s speech, which was reported yesterday, Mr Bryant will acknowledge that immigration can have a negative effect on labour markets.
He will say: “The biggest complaint I have heard, from migrants and settled communities alike, is about the negative effects migration can have on the UK labour market. And I agree.
“It is unfair that unscrupulous employers, whose only interest seems to be finding labour as cheaply as possible, will recruit workers in large numbers in low-wage countries in the EU, bring them to the UK, charge the costs of their travel and their substandard accommodation against their wages and still not even meet the national minimum wage.
“That is unfair. It exploits migrant workers and it makes it impossible for settled workers, with mortgages and a family to support at British prices to compete.” In his speech, which as well as targeting Tesco also contains criticism of high street chain Next, Mr Bryant will make it clear that that neither firm has broken the law.
Mr Bryant plans to say: “Take the case of Tesco, who recently decided to move their distribution centre in Kent.
“The new centre is larger and employs more people, but the staff at the original site, most of them British, were told that they could only move to the new centre if they took a cut in pay. The result? A large percentage of the staff at the new centre are from [the] Eastern Bloc.”
Tesco said it had recruited 350 local people at its distribution centre in Dagenham, which is in the east London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and was formerly in Essex, not Kent.
A spokesman said: “It is wrong to accuse Tesco of this. We work incredibly hard to recruit from the local area, and have just recruited 350 local people to work in our Dagenham site.”
Mr Bryant will say Next printed leaflets in Polish to attract workers from the country.