Next and Tesco are deliberately hiring cheaper, Eastern European workers in preference to British staff, Labour shadow minister Chris Bryant will claim in a speech next week.
In a hard-hitting speech, Bryant, the shadow immigration minister, is set to single out the two companies as “unscrupulous employers whose only interest seems to be finding labour as cheaply as possible”.
The keynote speech due to be given on Monday is set to attack the so-called "racist van", a Home Office initiative where a billboard which was driven around immigrant-heavy areas, telling those in the UK illegally to "Go Home" and offering them help to do so.
Bryant said he understood concerns from communities 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.”
He will continue: “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 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 Eastern bloc.
“Look at Next PLC, who last year brought 500 Polish workers to work in their South Elmsall warehouse for their summer sale and another 300 this summer.
“They were recruited in Poland and charged £50 to find them accommodation. The advantage to Next? They get to avoid Agency Workers Regulations which apply after a candidate has been employed for over 12 weeks, so Polish temps end up considerably cheaper than the local workforce which includes many former Next employees.”
Both Tesco and Next had declared themselves surprised at the attack from Bryant. Next, which employs about 54,500 people, said in a statement: “Without access to the facts it is difficult to comment on what Mr Bryant is claiming. On the face of it, his allegations seem unlikely.”
Tesco called Bryant's claims "wrong" and said it "works incredibly hard to recruit from the local area".
The supermarket chain employs more than 290,000 staff in Britain, a quarter under the age of 25.