UK: Supermarket giant Sainsbury's says immigrants make better workers

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Oct 10 13:21:33 UTC 2007

Sainsbury's says 'immigrants better workers'
By Gary Cleland
Last Updated: 2:30am BST 09/10/2007

Immigrant workers have a "superior" work ethic to British employees,
according to the supermarket giant Sainsbury's. The company said it
found immigrants to be more flexible and happier with their terms and
conditions in employment. It added that employing migrant workers in
its stores often had a positive impact on the domestic staff.
Sainsbury's was giving evidence to a House of Lords inquiry into the
impact of immigration. In a written submission, it said that it had
greatly increased the number of immigrants it employed over the past
two years and would likely continue to do so in future.

It said: "We have found migrant workers to have a very satisfactory
work ethic, in many cases superior to domestic workers. "We believe
this results from their differing motivations — they want to learn
English, or send money home to their families.

"They tend to be more willing to work flexibly, and be satisfied with
their duties, terms and conditions and productivity requirements.

"In the long term, this could have a positive effect on their domestic
colleagues. In some areas we have definitely seen a positive shift in
culture where migrant workers have been introduced, which has led to a
more diverse workforce fostering a more engaged group of workers."

The company, which employs 150,000 people, said it did not
specifically recruit migrant workers and looked for the "highest
calibre recruit" for any vacancy.

Sainsbury's said hiring migrant workers had forced it to be flexible
in its working patterns and language barriers posed potential problems
regarding health and safety. It said: "Where we have engaged skilled
workers (HGV drivers from Poland, for example) we have had to be
creative with their working patterns to allow them to return to their
homeland regularly. "This has encouraged us to consider the use of
flexibility among the whole workforce." It added: "Language barriers
are a disadvantage, and migrants' understanding of health and safety
requirements are naturally a major concern. Here again we have had to
take a very flexible approach by adapting our communications and

"Placing migrant workers among English-speaking colleagues and using
fellow workers as interpreters has proven useful." Sainsbury's said it
had not met with trade union resistance to employing migrant workers
and said, as the UK population decreased and aged, migrant worker use
would likely increase. The company said more could be done to help
migrant workers with advice on housing, banking, language and
cross-cultural awareness.

Prof David Blanchflower, who sits on the Bank of England's monetary
policy committee, told the peers that immigration had increased "fear
of unemployment" in the UK and that increased competition for jobs was
likely to "have a downward impact on pay". The Commission for Racial
Equality said it was important to recognise that the economic impact
of migrants was wider than often thought. It said: "On the surface,
the economic contribution of a low-paid migrant working as a cleaner
or security guard, for instance, may seem small, but it is important
to recognise that their work may support that of more highly-paid

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research said that
382,000 eastern Europeans had moved to the UK since their countries
joined the European Union in 2004.

On Saturday figures from the House of Commons library disclosed that
54 per cent of new jobs in Britain were taken by foreigners between
1997 and 2006.

A survey also revealed that housebuyers believed that immigrants were
one of the main causes for high house prices in Britain. More than one
in five told that the best way to tackle soaring
house prices would be to control immigration.

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