Tesco denies it prefers hiring migrants to Britons

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 2:38am

Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, has denied an accusation by the opposition Labour Party that it turns away British workers to exploit cheaper migrant labour.

In remarks that could drag British retailers into a politically charged immigration debate ahead of a 2015 election, senior Labour lawmaker Chris Bryant was due to say in a speech yesterday that Tesco and Next deliberately excluded British people from jobs.

Tesco, which employs more than 310,000 people in 3,146 stores across Britain and Northern Ireland, said Bryant's accusations were untrue. Extracts of Bryant's speech were made available to the media ahead of time.

"The statements in relation to Tesco are untrue," Tesco said on Twitter. "We work incredibly hard to recruit from the local area and we have just recruited 350 local people to work in our Dagenham site [in southeast England]."

Bryant was due to say Tesco favoured workers from eastern Europe over British ones and that it relocated one of its distribution centres in a way that discouraged local employees from continuing to continue work for the firm.

Labour's allegations led news bulletins yesterday and the denial from Tesco could embarrass Bryant and his party, some of whose own members have accused it of lacking a strategy to take on Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.

"We're not suggesting any law has been broken," a Labour source said. "Tesco and Next are anecdotal examples," the source added, saying the party wanted to spotlight the problem so it could be solved.

Retailer Next said it did hire Poles to work in Britain at busy times, but said it did so because it could not find enough Britons to fill vacancies and that it was not doing anything illegal.

"Mr Bryant wrongly claims that Polish workers are used to save money. This is simply not true," it said.