Tesco is adding 20 Iveco Eurocargo 18 tonners to its fleet in a move which marks the first Iveco trucks to be operated by the supermarket chain.

Tesco has defended its recruitment policy after being accused of seeking out foreign workers, rather than British ones, at its new Dagenham distribution centre in East London.

Earlier this week, a leaked speech due to be given by Labour immigration spokesman Chris Bryant alleged the new Dagenham site employed a large percentage of Eastern European workers  and suggested the retailer had told staff at its closing Harlow site they could only move to the new centre if they took a pay cut.

Following objections from Tesco, however, these references were removed from Bryant’s final speech, which described Tesco as a “good employer and an important source of jobs in Britain”.

In a blog on the Tesco website, UK operations director Gerry Gray said: “We absolutely refute any suggestion that we moved colleagues from Harlow to Dagenham to give them a pay cut and reduce the wage bill.” Employees at Harlow were given the opportunity to move to the Dagenham site “on their existing pay rate, with extra money for travel and relocation costs”, added Gray - though he did concede this would move over a period of five years to the same level of pay as new recruits at the site.

He also said it was “not true” that a large proportion of works in Dagenham were non-British, adding that pay rates for new recruits there were the same for both British and non-British workers.

A spokeswoman for Tesco later told Motortransport.co.uk the firm could not provide any breakdown of ethnic diversity at the Dagenham site, which employs around 900 staff, but stressed the firm always sought to recruit workers from the local area, irrespective of their country of origin. “We try to ensure we create jobs in the community in which we work,” she said. “The focus for us is very much about locality, not nationality.”

This is not the first time Tesco’s ongoing distribution centre restructure has hit the headlines. In June, the retailer was forced to issue an apology over a message on social networking site Twitter by UK and Ireland distribution director Steve Strachota which appeared to inappropriately celebrate the closure of five depots including the Harlow site and the creation of three new ones including the Dagenham DC.

Tesco’s spokeswoman told Motortransport.co.uk Strachota was still in his job and declined to say whether any formal disciplinary action had been taken over the matter, saying it was “not something we would talk about in the public domain”.