Labour's Chris Bryant calls for clampdown on exploitation of migrant workers

Chris Bryant delivers diluted version of his leaked speech, taking care not to offend Tesco or Next following row at weekend

Labour has called for a clampdown on “unscrupulous” employers who reduce costs by exploiting migrant workers from Eastern Europe, cutting British workers out of the competition for jobs.

The call by the shadow Immigration minister Chris Bryant had echoes of Gordon Brown’s ill-fated promise of “British jobs for British workers” – although Mr Bryant was careful to pitch his comments in a way that could not be interpreted as an attack on Eastern Europeans who are prepared to work for low pay.

He promised that a Labour government would hand over to local government the power to enforce minimum wage legislation, and double the fines for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. He also promised a mandatory register of commercial landlords, to prevent employers from making migrant workers on short-term contracts live in  overcrowded sub-standard accommodation.

His remarks were a recognition that Labour has appeared at times to ignore the fears of Britons about the impact of migrant labour at a time of high unemployment. He said that the Labour government was wrong not to limit immigration when Poland and nine other mostly ex-communist states joined the EU in 2004.

But his message was overshadowed by inaccurate comments about the supermarket chain Tesco in a version of the speech that was leaked prior to a Sunday newspaper, prior to delivery.

In that version, Mr Bryant was reportedly going to say that when Tesco opened a new distribution centre, staff at the old centre 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.”

When he came to deliver the speech, his comments about Tesco were more guarded. He said: “Even good British companies are affected by the impact of low-skilled migrant workers. Take Tesco, a good employer and an important source of jobs in Britain and an important source of jobs in Britain. They take on young people, operate apprenticeships and training schemes and often employ unemployed or disabled staff through Jobcentres.

“Yet when a distribution centre was moved to a new location, existing staff said they would have lost out from the transfer, and the result was a higher proportion of staff at the new site from [Eastern European] countries taking part of the jobs. Tesco are clear that they have tried to recruit locally, and I hope they can provide more reassurance for their existing staff, but the fact that staff are raising concerns shows how sensitive the issue had become.”

The leaked version of the speech also located the distribution centre in Kent, when it is in fact in Essex.

Mr Bryant’s speech also criticised another major employer. He said: “Next plc recruited extra temporary staff for their South Elmsall warehouse for the summer sale, last year and this year. Now South Elmsall is in a region with 9 per cent unemployment, and 23.8 per cent youth unemployment, yet several hundred people were recruited directly from Poland. The recruitment agency Next used, called Flame, has its website entirely in Polish.”

Next, he added “say that they have tried to recruit locally.” But employers condemned the suggestion that they should change their recruitment practices to favour British workers.

“Discriminating in any way against EU migrant labour would not only be illegal and entirely contrary to all the principles of the free market, but would damage Britain’s growth prospects,” Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, said.

Kevin Green, of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, added: “Some companies may look to overseas staff to fill the positions that they have advertised and cannot fill in the UK, which is a legitimate practice and does not discriminate against UK workers.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee