A former chief executive of Marks and Spencer has taken the unusual step of defending those who come to the UK prepared to work longer hours for lower pay.
Stuart Rose, who is now chairman of online grocer Ocado, criticised people who complain immigrants are taking too many British jobs. He said it was not the fault of immigrants if they are prepared to “work hard for less money” than British people would like. In comments to Sky News, he said: “”I’m a free market economist, we operate in a free market. If these people want to come here, and work the hours they are prepared to work for the wages they are prepared to work for, then so be it.
“It’s up to people to decide what they want to do. I think there are a lot of people who complain about their lot. Life is tough for everybody at times.”
Mr Rose’s comments come before EU restrictions on Bulgarian and Romania migrants expire in January, enabling them to freely travel and work in the UK.
Mr Rose added: “I know people will look at me and say ‘It’s all right for you’, but I started off with pretty well nothing, I did a lot of menial jobs when I was young. I didn’t worry about the status of the job – I was more worried about my self-esteem and the fact I had a job.
“In fact I would look myself in the mirror and say, ‘I’ve earned a few bob’.”
GOVERNMENT VERSUS DOMINO’S
The boss of the American pizza delivery giant should “pay his staff a little more,” said immigration minister Mark Harper, after the chain’s head complained that immigration laws were making it hard to fill jobs Britons won’t apply for.
Domino’s chief executive, Lance Batchelor, who is quitting his role next year, said he had been unable to fill 1,000 jobs due to a shortage of labor in Britain caused by tighter immigration rules and Britons not wanting the work.
“We’re struggling to get enough employees. Since the immigration laws were tightened up two or three years ago, we are finding it harder and harder to hire staff, especially in London and the South East (of England),” Batchelor told London’s Evening Standard newspaper.
“People who would have worked here a few years ago now don’t want these jobs. We could fill 1,000 jobs across the U.K. tomorrow if we could get candidates to apply for them.”
But immigration minister Harper hit back at the Domino’s chief, saying Batchelor should boost his workers’ wages to attract more people. Batchelor’s comments were echoed by Sir Stuart Rose.
However Mark Harper insisted that the government will not make it easier to “import relatively unskilled labor,” just so the Domino’s boss could “keep his wages low.” He said the pizza delivery chain has a huge pool of workers in the European Union to choose from.
“If out of a market of hundreds of millions of people you can’t hire enough people to work in your restaurants, you perhaps should look at how much you’re willing to pay people,” Harper said.
Last month David Cameron told the Financial Times that, among other things, he wanted to change the law so that new EU migrants would have to wait three months before they could access unemployment benefits.
In addition, Mr Cameron said that no newly arrived EU jobseekers would be able to claim housing benefit and a new minimum earnings threshold would be introduced before benefits such as income support could be claimed.
Mr Cameron’s proposals also included a measure that would mean any EU national sleeping rough or begging would be deported and barred from re-entry for a year “unless they can prove they have a proper reason to be here”.
He also disclosed plans to try to renegotiate the way EU freedom of movement rules are applied to make it harder for people from poorer countries in the 28-nation bloc to relocate to richer countries.