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Fiacra Nagle, chief executive of O'Briens Sandwich Bars

07 September 2006

Fiacra Nagle was appointed chief executive of O'Briens Sandwich Bars in January. Nagle has been vocal about the benefits of employing migrant workers ahead of the succession of Romania and Bulgaria into the European Union next year. He spoke to Daniel Thomas

Are you planning to recruit Romanian and Bulgarian workers when the two countries join the European Union next year?

Our franchisees are the ones who recruit - we have 180 UK stores and 120 in Ireland - and a large number employ workers from the accession states who joined in 2004. I would expect them to recruit from the new countries as well.

Do you agree with a specific points-based work permit policy for migrants from the two countries?
I don't see the need for a requirement like this. Despite the forecasts about the economy being overburdened by migrants, it hasn't really happened - in Ireland, at least. The economy has benefited, at different levels of the workforce. However, in customer-facing roles particularly, language skills are obviously important.

British Hospitality Association chief executive Bob Cotton recently called for a "pause" in migration because of the large influx from the accession states. How would a complete block affect your business?
A block isn't in anybody's interests. I actually come from the other end of the spectrum and am in favour of it becoming more open. Migrants have always benefited the hospitality sector - if you look back at the 1980s, it was the Irish coming to the UK. You should let the market decide.

Which particular skills do eastern Europeans bring to your business?
As everyone knows, they are very hard-working, have a great capacity for taking things on and an appetite to learn. That's the kind of worker we are keen to take on, regardless of nationality.

Are UK hospitality workers sometimes unfairly castigated as being lazy when compared with eastern Europeans?

I'm not in the practice of castigating any nationality. You are going to get lazy people from all backgrounds, not just in the UK or Ireland. People who have travelled will generally want to get on, and have a progressive attitude. The lazy people in Poland will probably be sitting at home on the sofa.

Should restrictions on migration from non-EU states be relaxed?

I'm not particularly calling for a change in the law, but as you will have gathered, I'm not a great subscriber to legislation in business. The more open we are, the less likely it is workers are going to be exploited, as long as businesses are abiding by the law.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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