Consumer Staples

Pay better wages, UK minister tells Domino's

Domino's gluten free pizza
Source: Dominos

The boss of pizza delivery giant Domino's should "pay his staff a little more", the U.K.'s immigration minister said, after the chain's head complained that immigration laws were making it hard to fill jobs Britons won't apply for.

Chief executive of Domino's Lance Batchelor, who is quitting his role next year, said he had been unable fill 1,000 jobs due to a shortage of labor in the U.K. caused by tighter immigration rules and Britons not wanting the work.

"We're struggling to get enough employees. Since the immigration laws were tightened up two or three years ago, we are finding it harder and harder to hire staff, especially in London and the South East," Batchelor told the London Evening Standard newspaper.

"People who would have worked here a few years ago now don't want these jobs. We could fill 1,000 jobs across the U.K. tomorrow if we could get candidates to apply for them."

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But immigration minister Mark Harper hit back at the Domino's chief, saying Batchelor should boost his workers' wages to attract more people.

Domino's was not available for comment.

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"Mr Batchelor was talking about hiring people in his particular pizza chain and it seems to me that if you have jobs available and you can't fill them he perhaps ought to just reflect on the salary package that he is offering," Harper told members of parliament in the home affairs select committee on Tuesday.

"He should perhaps pay his staff a little more and then he might find it easier to recruit them."

The tussle comes amid fierce debate over how many Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants will enter Britain when restrictions on their movement within the EU are lifted on 1 January 2014.

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Batchelor's pro-immigration remarks were echoed by former Marks & Spencer chief executive Sir Stuart Rose who told Sky News that it was not the fault of Bulgarians or Romanians that they were willing to work for less money than British nationals.

Harper insisted that the government will not make it easier to "import relatively unskilled labor", just so the Domino's boss could "keep his wages low". He said the pizza delivery chain has a huge pool of workers in the European Union to choose from.

"If out of a market of hundreds of millions of people you can't hire enough people to work in your restaurants, you perhaps should look at how much you're willing to pay people," Harper said.