Poles in parliament irk DF

Construction company owner says he hired Danish workers but had to let them go for various reasons

As labourers work to complete renovations of the tower of Christiansborg, the seat of parliament, before it opens to the public next year, the contractor that employs them has been criticised by one of the legislature's most prominent voices for hiring Polish labourers.  

Pia Kjærsgaard, the former head of the right-wing Dansk Folkeparti (DF), and now vice-speaker of parliament, said it was “ridiculous” that the Omø construction company was using foreigners at a time when there were unemployed Danes who could have done the job.

“I am deeply shocked and surprised that there are Poles working in Christiansborg. That’s a very poor signal to send unemployed Danes in the construction industry,” Kjærsgaard told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Parliament is currently in recess, but Kjærsgaard said she would bring up her concerns during the next session.

“We stand by our policy that we use Danish labour if possible, which there is,” she said, pointing out the irony that as parliament working to help the unemployed, the Polish labourers were working, literally, just above them.

Ralph S Nielsen, the head of Omø, confirmed that two Poles had been a part of the team working to renovate the tower. He said they were receiving equal wages as Danes and that they had been hired “not because they are cheaper, but because they are good workers”.

But Nielsen did admit that another reason was that he encounters fewer issues with the Polish workers than with the Danes.

“In my experience, you don’t have to argue with them about how long work hours are, or when to take a break, as you do with many Danes. That’s not a prejudice, that’s just the way it is,” Nielsen said. 

Nielsen sought to hire workers for the project through offical channels, and he said he received over 200 applications. He wound up hiring five Danes, but had to let four of them go for various reasons.

Bjarne Høpner, the head of labour 3F's Copenhagen chapter, warned Nielsen not to paint everyone with one brush.

“It’s not my impression that people from Poland jump just because they are told to do so,” Høpner told Jyllands-Posten. “As long as the wages and work environment is in order, 3F doesn’t care where people come from.”

Speaker of parliament Mogens Lykketoft (Socialdemokraterne) said the legislature had no authority to determine who contractors hired, provided they abided by labour laws.