Labour: immigrant staff take tourism jobs from Brits as they don't moan about pay
Tourism's "unscrupulous" businesses are employing immigrant workers at the expense of British staff because they "do not complain" about poor pay, a senior Labour MP has claimed.
Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant acknowledged that immigration can have a negative effect on labour markets, and attacked firms that "deliberately exclude British people".
His speech, mired by being forced to back down over criticism of high street store chains Tesco and Next for using foreign workers, singled out tourism, arguably the Westcountry's most important sector.
Mr Bryant said some argue many young people dismissed working in hospitality because it was "beneath them".
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But he added that for many in other countries a job in a hotel is not a dead end or a gap year stop gap, but the start of a rewarding career".
He went on: "Tourism is one of our largest industries and yet I have heard horror tales of hotel management deliberately cutting hours of young British workers and adding hours to migrant workers who do not complain about deductions from earnings that almost certainly take people below the minimum wage."
Mr Bryant added: "Unscrupulous employers should not be allowed to 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 sub-standard 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."
The speech was designed to stake Labour's position on immigration amid criticism from backbench MPs for the party failing to make clear where it stands on key issues.
But the speech appeared to have been adjusted after sections were briefed to the media over the weekend.
Today Mr Bryant insisted he had never intended to suggest Tesco and Next were "unscrupulous".
According to the details published in the Sunday Telegraph, he attacked "unscrupulous employers" who brought over large numbers of workers to the UK from low-wage EU countries, putting them up in substandard accommodation, without paying the national minimum wage, and undercutting local workers.
He then went on to highlight a new Tesco distribution centre "in Kent", where he said a "large percentage" of the staff were from the eastern bloc, and Next's Elmsall warehouse where hundreds of Polish workers were employed for the summer sales.
But after the two firms complained publicly about the allegations, Mr Bryant said his comments about "unscrupulous" employers had not been aimed specifically at them and elements of his speech – which he is delivering today - had been "conflated" in some press reports.
"I fully accept that Next and Tesco often go the extra mile to try and recruit local workers," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme."
He added: "My question is, and always was going to be, and still remains today, when we have one million unemployed youngsters under the age of 24 in this country, and we have a very high level of long-term unemployment, is there a way in which we can regulate labour markets in this country better so that foreign migrant workers are not exploited, as happens in some cases?
"I am not saying that specifically about Tesco and Next."