Tesco and Next have hit back at shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant’s claims that they are “unscrupulous employers” who favour migrant workers.

Bryant is set to attack both retailers in a speech today which suggests immigrant workers are used by companies to undercut locals.

He will accuse Tesco of moving a distribution centre from Harlow in Essex to Kent where a “large percentage” of the staff are from the Eastern Bloc and highlight that Next prints jobs leaflets only in Polish to attract foreign workers to its South Elmsall warehouse for its summer Sale.

Tesco pointed out that the centre is in Dagenham, east London, not in Kent. It added: “We have recruited 350 local people to work at our site.”

Next hit back and said the only reason it employs workers from Poland is because local people refuse to apply for seasonal work.

The company said: “Agency workers from Poland cost us exactly the same as local agency workers, and our existing employees. The only reason we seek the help of people from Poland is that we simply can’t recruit enough local people to satisfy these spikes in demand for temporary work.”

In his speech, Bryant is scheduled to say: “It is unfair that unscrupulous employers whose only interest seems to be finding labour as cheaply as possible will recruit workers in large numbers in low-wage countries in the EU, bring them to the UK, charge the costs of their travel and their substandard accommodation against their wages and still not even meet the national minimum wage.”

Tesco and Next hit back at Labour's foreign workers claim