LABOUR’S immigration spokesman Chris Bryant yesterday endured a day from hell as he attempted to defuse a row with two retail giants while launching a new immigration policy.
Bryant had planned to attack Tesco and Next for allegedly preferring cheap employees from eastern Europe at the expense of British workers. But after the firms complained and pointed out errors in quotes pre-briefed to the Sunday Telegraph he was forced to water down the text.
As a result his plan to get tough on immigration by criticising Tesco’s hiring process ended up with Bryant noting that employees have been “raising concern” while admitting Tesco is “a good employer and an important source of jobs in Britain”.
He also dropped claims that Next uses Polish workers to get around rules that would make it more expensive to hire Britons.
Next insists it only turned to a Polish recruitment agency to find temporary workers for a distribution centre in the former pit village of South Elmsall, Yorkshire because it could not recruit enough people locally. This is despite official statistics showing a local unemployment rate of around 10 per cent.
Bryant admitted in his speech that some employees believe young Britons “discount hospitality or care industries as beneath them” but said the problem was exacerbated by immigrants who were willing to work excessive hours and accept hefty deductions from their already low pay packets.
Labour is keen to prove it can be tough on immigration in order to reconnect with its working class voter base.