"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Norwich Agency’s Advert For ‘Polish Speakers Only’

A Norwich-based recruitment agency has defended itself after advertising for jobs for Polish-speaking factory workers.

OSR Recruitment Services was looking for staff to work at a meat factory and sent out an email to prospective staff which said: “Applicants must speak Polish.”

But today the company said that it was also taking on staff of other nationalities and said “lessons had been learned” from the incident.

OSR, which has been based in Norwich since 1997 and also has offices in Ipswich and King’s Lynn, had been asked to provide 100 factory staff for Forza Meats, which is the largest supplier of cooked meats to Asda supermarkets. The company is temporarily using some of Bernard Matthews’ site in Great Witchingham, near Norwich, due to a fire at its factory in Clenchwarton in Yorkshire.

The story made headlines in a Sunday newspaper, and the email drew criticism from shadow immigration minister Damian Green, who said: “Anyone applying for this job will feel that it’s hugely unfair that they can only work for that company in this country if they can speak a foreign language.”

Today director Mario Bardwell said he was “quite upset at the sensationalist handling”. He said they had also recruited workers of other nationalities, but on that particular occasion they needed people at short notice to take part in an induction being carried out in Polish.

Mr Bardwell said: “An e-mail was sent to approximately 60 candidates who are registered on our database as seeking immediate work of this type. On the day following the email being sent, our client was carrying out an induction of some 60 or so workers, the vast majority of whom were Polish. Inductions are carried out in groups where the same language can be used; there are important legal requirements for an employer to comply with which necessitates induction and training to be given in the employee’s first language. As it happened, on this occasion, our client had informed us that there were still vacancies in this induction programme and therefore we were seeking, at very short notice, for Polish speaking workers who could join the group already in place. There was nothing unlawful about this.

“We do recruit workers of all nationalities and indeed we have British workers being inducted at this factory for work with this client.”

He added: “It is a regret that the email got sent out. Lessons have been learned.”

He said he had spoken to Max Hilliard, the boss of Forza Meats, yesterday and there “was an exchange of views”. He said he hoped they would continue to be able to work together.

Mr Hilliard said there was a “breakdown in communication” with OSR. “I cannot say how this error came about, perhaps a glib comment was made about the difficulty of operating in several different languages, I don’t know but we would never turn down an English person for a job on the basis that they didn’t speak Polish or any other language.”

OSR employs more than 30 staff and finds workers in areas including sales, marketing, management, customer service, administration, finance and hospitality as well as factory work. Their website includes testimonials from Norwich construction company May Gurney and the Somerleyton estate in north Suffolk.

Mr Bardwell said: “We are not the sort of agency that ship in workers from eastern Europe to work in factories.”


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