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Monday, August 12, 2013

Car crash Bryant

The New Statesman is pretty scathing today about the Chris Bryant car-crash interview on Radio 4 this morning. Apparently, the shadow immigration minister sent out advance briefings of a speech he was delivering today only for it to be discovered that it was wildly inaccurate. So much so that Mr. Bryant ended up rebutting his own accusations during the course of the interview.

The preview of the speech in yesterday's Telegraph suggested that Bryant would criticise Tesco for moving its distribution centre to Kent and telling staff 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." When Evan Davis noted that Tesco had responded by pointing out that no such distribution centre exists, a flustered Bryant replied: "I don't know where Kent came into it, it was always Essex...I don't know how the word Kent got into it" before falling back on the defence that he hadn't "said anything yet" and that it was not "all that fruitful" to focus on specifics.

But the backtracking continued as Bryant claimed that his attack on "unscrupulous employers whose only interest seems to be finding labour as cheaply as possible" did not refer to Tesco and Next. They were, he said, "good employers" who "often try to go the extra mile to find good local workers" all but disowning the criticisms of both companies that appeared in the Telegraph. For instance, he was quoted as saying of Next: "Look at Next PLC, who last year brought 500 Polish workers to work in their South Elmsall [West Yorkshire] 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."

What I don't understand is what Bryant was trying to say. Obviously, he has been talking to a lot of people and has heard many tales, most of which on past form are inaccurate. But instead of establishing the facts and asking the question as to why employers have to rely on migrant labour, he went onto the offensive.

If there really is a problem on the scale Bryant alleges, and I don't believe that there is then we need to know why it is that local people are not taking up these jobs. Is it a matter of training, work ethic, perceived inadequate remuneration or all three? Surely the real issue he should be focussing on is illegal immigration and trafficking?

And given that the migrant workers Bryant refers to come from within the European Union, is he advocating withdrawal? It is little wonder that the Secretary of State for Wales tweeted this morning that Labour's policy on immigration was more coherent when they were silent.
Strictly speaking Dagenham hasn't been in Essex since 1964 - it's in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. However, the story in the Romford Recorder of 27th February gives the Polish workers story and says Beam Reach, which could be in LB Havering! The Tesco story on https://www.ourtesco.com/2013/06/27/our-dagenham-distribution-centre-opens/ has a photo with Aylesford in the image name. (Aylesford is in Kent).
Sounds as if several reports could have done with more fact checking!
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