UK's Labour says Tesco and Next shun local workers

Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:06am EDT
 
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By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's opposition Labour party is to accuse supermarket giant Tesco (TSCO.L: Quote) and clothing retailer Next (NXT.L: Quote) of turning away British workers where possible to exploit cheaper migrant labour.

In a speech that will drag the firms into a politically-charged immigration debate ahead of a 2015 election, senior Labour lawmaker and immigration spokesman Chris Bryant will accuse the companies on Monday of deliberately excluding British people.

"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, (and) bring them to the UK," Bryant will say, according to advance extracts of his speech.

Polls show immigration is one of the subjects that worries British voters the most and any perception that retailers are deliberately disadvantaging locals could damage Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives as well as the firms themselves.

Cameron is trying to stop an exodus of voters to the anti-immigration UK Independence Party before the 2015 vote.

Bryant will accuse Tesco of favoring workers from Eastern Europe over British ones and of relocating one of its distribution centers in a way that discouraged local employees to continue working for the firm.

He will also accuse Next of bussing in workers from Poland to skirt British labour laws that would make hiring comparable local workers more expensive.

Next said in a statement on Sunday it did hire Polish nationals to work in Britain at busy times, but said it did so because it couldn't find enough Britons to fill vacancies and that it was not doing anything unethical or illegal.   Continued...

 
A man pushes his shopping trolley into a Tesco store in Hammersmith, west London October 3, 2012. REUTERS/Paul Hackett