Hospitality employers remain divided over whether there should be a blanket ban on Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants working in the UK when the two countries join the European Union next year.
Last week, British Hospitality Association (BHA) chief executive Bob Cotton called for a temporary ban on migration from the two states after a BHA survey found 70% of London's 300,000-strong hospitality workforce already comes from overseas. It also discovered that 80% of workers in the capital's top 25 hotels are from abroad
"We need to pause for a while and assess the situation," he said. "June's year-on-year employment figures went up by about a quarter of a million, as did the unemployment numbers, which shows the jobs are being filled from overseas."
However, leading industry figures said a blanket ban would not be workable. Thistle Hotels chief executive Tim Scoble said: "I broadly agree with him, but we are taking on eastern Europeans because it's extremely hard to recruit in London at the more unskilled levels."
Jane Sunley, managing director of hospitality HR consultancy Learnpurple, said that a ban was "not sensible" and called on UK businesses to do more to recruit and train home-grown talent.
"Employers should identify which are transient workers and which want a career in hospitality - whatever country they are from," she said.
Zahid Kasim, chief executive of three-strong London Indian restaurant group Café Lazeez, has tasked a Russian-based business colleague to examine the hospitality training market in Bulgaria and Romania. "There is very little information, and we need to understand what the training scenario is over there before making any decisions," he said.
Trade and Industry Secretary Alastair Darling last week said there would be no open-door policy for Bulgarians and Romanians, although a Home Office spokesman said no definite decision would be made until a firm accession date had been agreed, with January 2007 the likely date.
- 70% of London's 300,000-strong hospitality workforce are migrants.
- 80% of workers in London's top 25 hotels are from abroad.
- 600,000 people have come to the UK from the 10 "accession states" since 2004.
15,000 - the number the Government expected to migrate each year.
Sources: BHA/Home Office
By Tom Bill