WORK-LIFE BALANCE / DEC. 10, 2013
version 3, draft 3

'Stop Moaning About Migrants and Get a Job'

That is the message Sir Stuart Rose, the highly respected chairman of online grocer Ocado, has issued to Britons who believe British jobs will be 'stolen' by immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Speaking to Sky News, Sir Stuart said: “I'm a free market economist, we operate in a free market” when he was quizzed about a possible influx of people coming from Romania and Bulgaria once restrictions on UK work visas are relaxed on 1 January 2014.

The former Marks and Spencers supremo added: “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.”

Once into his stride, Sir Stuart issued a broadside to those in society who he believes are holding the economy back.

“It's up to people to decide what they want to do,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people who complain about their lot. I know people will look at me and say ‘It's alright 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’.”

Sir Stuart was not alone in his thoughts either.

Lance Batchelor, chief executive of Domino's Pizza, echoed Rose's comments when he spoke to the London Evening Standard earlier this month. During his interview, Batchelor lamented that his company has 1,000 unfilled jobs which British people won't apply for. The lack of interest in driving and cooking jobs, he said, was stopping Domino's from expanding their UK operations.

“People who would have worked here a few years ago now don't want these jobs,” he said. “We could fill 1,000 jobs across the UK tomorrow if we could get candidates to apply for them.”

Last week Romania's Labour minister Mariana Campeanu told The Times that Romanians are young, well-qualified, and enthusiastic to work. Britain, she said, should be grateful for the fact they are keen to work here.

“This should maybe be a reason why many British people do not access the vacancies on the labour market for which Romanian citizens, for example, are going to apply,” she said.

“If there are vacancies, somebody will fill them, whether they are from Romania, Italy, Spain or wherever...”

So, are Sir Stuart et al right? Should Britain open its arms to greater levels of immigration or should it challenge the EU and prioritise British jobs for British citizens?

Ever the diplomat, David Cameron has proposed a raft of measures to help mitigate the effects of an influx of workers from Romania, Bulgaria and elsewhere. One of the most significant of these measures involves increasing the fine on employers that are found to be paying migrant workers less than the minimum wage. The Prime Minister hopes that this fine (which could be as much as £20,000) will discourage companies from using migrants as cheap labour, thereby reassuring the general public that the job market in Britain will remain, to all intents and purposes, a level playing field.

But will it..?

 

Image courtesy of David Rose

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