Ironic piece on BBC Radio 4’s iconic breakfast programme “Today” earlier this week. Apparently, the Canadians are making a push to attract Polish workers in the UK to Canada. They’re seen as hard-working and reliable, the sort of workers who could benefit the Canadian economy.
I say ironic because there are plenty of saddos in this country who have decried the Poles, the “they’re taking our jobs” brigade – completely ignoring the fact the Poles are doing many of the jobs our own indolent workers won’t take on. But it’s the reason the Canadians want “our” Poles that most intrigues me – the idea that it’s because they’re such good workers.
First of all, are they? The answer, from what I can gather, is Yes. I’ve seen programme after programme on UK TV in which employers explain what good employees the Poles in this country are: punctual, polite, well-educated and hard-working. I don’t think there’s any doubt the vast majority of Polish workers in UK behave in this way, and that’s why they have built a solid reputation for themselves and fitted into UK society remarkably smoothly (despite the best efforts of the likes of “Migration Watch”).
But but but: are all Polish workers built in the same way? In Polska Dotty I devote a chapter to this topic, entitled “Work and Entrepreneurs”. The clue is in the title, because I found, paradoxically, at once a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit in Poland as well as great apathy amongst many workers. I’m sure it’s more complicated than this, but I put a lot of the apathy down to Poland’s difficult past – particularly its recent Communist subjugation – when for most ordinary workers working hard only contributed the fruits of your labour to the ruling Nomenklatura.
Therefore Brits should not travel to Poland expecting all workers there to be as enthusiastic as the Poles they have encountered in UK. Rather, I agree with the consensus view of the guests on the Today programme that, as with many peoples, it’s the individuals who make the positive move to travel abroad in search of work who are predisposed to being, for the greater part, determined and diligent. All of which means that, actually, the Canadians are no mugs enticing Polish workers to their shores. However, they’re doing a great job here, thank you very much – to their own benefit as well as that of this country. So we don’t want them to go, and say to the Canadians: Leave our Polish Workers Alone!