Western Europe has a new and urgent problem. The strawberries and asparagus will soon be rotting in the greenhouses and fields, thanks to the upcoming populism and xenophobia. According to a report on the Dutch news channel BNR, Germany ran into a major problem because Polish labourers don’t want to work in the agricultural sector anymore because of bad wages. In “Brexit Old England”, British people will soon have to work the fields again to preserve their strawberries. In the Netherlands, we found yet another strange way to chase these people away from work. All Polish people I know are working their butt off. At construction sites, they start at 7 A.M. and work until 6 P.M. Drinking coffee is something they view as a waste of time, and they prefer to have their lunch on the go. A six-day workweek of about 65 hours is what they prefer. They work for three months and then go back to Poland, where they work hard again to build their own homes with the money they earned in the West.
Compared to the British, who invented an entire Brexit for it, the Dutch found a smarter way to chase the Polish labourers away. In addition to the populistic agitation, the Dutch use the collective labour agreement to keep them away. The Polish are no longer allowed to work more than 38 hours at minimum wage under this collective labor agreement. It will protect these poor Polish guys and will boost job availability for the locals, although few people here are willing to pick strawberries or asparagus.
But what should those Poles do with all that free time? Watching Polish TV in their tiny, smelly rooms packed to the gills with other Poles? Many Dutch look down on the Polish a bit, most cafés and shops are less than welcoming to them.
We all live in one world. But in this part of it, people prefer not to do dirty or heavy work. Why don’t we embrace the Poles, Bulgarians and Romanians? Why do we leave Syrians (also mostly hard-working people) unemployed in a refugee centre for a few years to learn silly facts about the Netherlands in their citizenship courses?
In fact, we do not deserve strawberries on our plates or asparagus in our soup if we continue to be so unfriendly to those that come to help us. If scarcity arises, I suggest we stop selling strawberries and asparagus to all populists.
This post is also available in: Dutch