British workers are routinely being denied jobs in factories and food processing firms in favour of foreign applicants, the equality watchdog has found.
The problem was highlighted yesterday when it emerged that one company has been advertising for Polish-speaking staff only.
The effective ban on British applicants for jobs at Forza AW, which is Asda’s biggest cooked meat supplier, was claimed to be because all health and safety training is carried out in Polish.
But the Equality and Human Rights Commission separately found that in many firms, places are being handed to migrant workers because they are easier to exploit and often receive terrible pay and work conditions.
They are also favoured over British applicants because they are considered to be harder working and less likely to complain.
Details emerged in the commission’s report into the meat and poultry processing industry, which found that ‘most (recruitment) agencies had experience of firms breaching the Race Relations Act in asking for workers from specific countries’.
A third also admitted acting unlawfully by supplying workers based on what nationality they thought the processing firm would prefer or following ‘direct requests’ from clients.
Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green said the situation exploded the myth of Gordon Brown’s promise to create ‘British jobs for British workers’.
Forza, which supplies several supermarkets and has a £140million turnover and 600 employees, is temporarily leasing space at a Bernard Matthews site in Great Witchingham, near Norwich, after a fire at its West Yorkshire plant.
Its advert was sent to hundreds of potential applicants on the of East Anglia-based employment agency OSR Recruitment earlier this month. It said: ‘Applicants must speak Polish. Please call asap!’
One job hunter who received the email contacted OSR last Tuesday and was asked if he spoke Polish before being told: ‘You have to be fluent because the health and safety training is all done in Polish.’
Forza chief executive Max Hilliard claimed the advert happened because of a ‘breakdown in communications’ between his firm and OSR and he hadn’t seen the final version before its release. ‘In normal circumstances, this ad would have been vetted and the error removed,’ he said.
Around 88,000 people work in the meat and poultry industry. A third of the permanent work force and 70 per cent of agency workers are migrants.
The commission spoke to 260 workers as well as 190 meat and poultry processing firms and 131 recruitment agencies for its report.
Director general Neil Kinghan said: ‘The commission will be writing to Forza AW this week to ask it to respond to the allegations and to confirm that it will not discriminate against British, or any other workers, on the grounds of their nationality.’