Industry figures hit back at housebuilder and former newspaper magnate Eddy Shah after he launched a blistering attack on construction unions and workers.

In an interview with a housing website, Shah said: “The spirit of the corrupt trade unions still lives in construction.” He added that construction workers were “lazy and incompetent, often working no more than five hours a day, shoddy in their workmanship, with no pride in their efforts, spending more time avoiding work than doing it”. He said: “I’d employ Poles tomorrow and pay a higher rate because I know they would do a better job.”

Tony Pidgley, founder of Berkeley Homes, accused Shah of making crude generalisations. He said: “I’d say the opposite is true, and I have a good bit of experience of workers in our industry. Most working in housebuilding are subcontractors or self-employed. They do a good job and work hard.”

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of Ucatt, called Shah a “failed newspaper boss”. He said: “It’s a pity Eddie Shah has crawled out from under the rock where he has been hiding, particularly when he spouts such rubbish.”

He added: “Maybe if bosses looked after their workforce, rather than trying to ensure they don’t have to pay standard benefits such as holiday pay, the industry would be more productive. I do hope Mr Shah does not treat his workers in this way.”