The hospitality industry's largest employers have hit back at the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association after he claimed that UK workers were "unemployable".
Speaking at a Parliamentary inquiry into tourism, Bob Cotton suggested that UK workers did not have the motivation to turn up each day and were happy to stay on benefits.
"If you're an employer and have a keen person from Poland who is bright, smiling, wants to work, who turns up every day and will work 45 to 50 hours a week against a person who turns up one day, doesn't turn up the next and isn't really interested, it's a no-brainer," he said.
Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, said the comments were "nothing short of outrageous".
"Local employees are fundamental in providing a strong service culture in tourism," Hearn said. "For our industry body to undermine the British workforce like this is extremely regrettable."
A spokeswoman for Compass Group said the comments were "unhelpful". "Our priority is to recruit the right person to suit the role - irrespective of their background," she said. "We can recruit hard-working and diligent team members from both the local population and from a migrant workforce."
Robin Derrett, vice-president of human resources at Hilton, said the industry needed to do more to attract UK workers.
"It's important to have a long-term view of service delivery and as an industry we must position hospitality as a career of choice," he said.
However, Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels, backed Cotton.
"He is absolutely correct," Hancock said. "We do have many wonderful home-grown individuals in the trade but employers can't fill all their vacancies without accepting foreign staff too. It is up to us to attract the best staff we can and it is up to the Government to stop paying able-bodied youngsters for sitting at home."
By Daniel Thomas
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