Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

From Warsaw to Wor Door; as Business Leaders Welcome Low-Cost Air Link We Find the Polish Plumber Is Here to Stay the North-East Now Has over 47,0000 Eastern European Workers

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

From Warsaw to Wor Door; as Business Leaders Welcome Low-Cost Air Link We Find the Polish Plumber Is Here to Stay the North-East Now Has over 47,0000 Eastern European Workers

Article excerpt

Byline: Alastair Gilmour reports

THE Big Bad Wolf is making his presence felt. He's integrating well into North-East society and his cubs are sharing classrooms with local children - without biting them.

Put another way, The Polish Plumber is here to stay.

Depending on which newspaper headlines caught your eye recently, you'll have seen: "Idle British workers put to shame by eager Eastern Europeans" or "55,000 migrants claiming benefits".

Both are exaggerations, of course, to put over a particular view.

The Czech waiter, the Slovakian artist and the Lithuanian tailor are happily working in the region and they are all, in the main, thriving - and contributing to our social and economic diversity and prosperity.

The imaginary Polish plumber who struck fear in the hearts of British workers before the Accession Eight countries from Eastern Europe - the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia - joined the EU in 2004, has been revealed as a more vibrant and complex creature.

According to the Home Office, the most common occupation for the new arrivals is "administration, business and management".

The number of Eastern Europeans working in the North-East has increased five-fold in the past two years with more than 47,400 migrants now registered to work in the region.

And a good proportion of them have settled in Derwentside, County Durham -with Consett in particular a favoured destination.

Outside Newcastle, it now has the largest pocket of Polish workers in the North-East.

International Cuisine, based on the town's Hownsgill Industrial Park, can count 43% of its workforce who originate from Eastern Europe - mainly Poland - among its 500-strong workforce.

The company, started in 1988 with 14 staff, supplies ready meals to the nation's supermarkets.

One Consett primary school has even produced a Polish version of its parents' brochure following an influx of new starters over a short period and Catholic churches across the region report swelling congregations.

Mike Clark, executive director of Derwentside Council, says: "Derwentside's history has seen a lot of people coming in from all parts of the UK - economic migrants for the pits and the steel industry - and this is no different.

"We've always been a fairly broad-based community."

He added: "A migrant workforce has positive economic benefits but it does raise some

"Not everybody coming in is fully literate and we have had to give them information about our culture and institutions and not leave them high and dry.

"We would encourage them to bring their families over - a lot come as singletons - which would be better from a community perspective and it also helps to integrate into schools etc.

"If International Cuisine has difficulty in recruiting locally, they'll go out to find their workforce. …

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