Tale of two cities in battle for jobs
By Andras Gergely and Gareth Jones
LIMERICK, Ireland/LODZ, Poland (Reuters) - Limerick's mayor John Gilligan has a warning for the Poles who last month scored a foreign investment coup at his city's expense: beware, you may suffer the same fate in a few years.
In the city dubbed Ireland's "Stab City" for its gangland murders, the official is still fuming over a decision by Dell, the world's No. 2 PC maker, to move its European manufacturing base away to Lodz in fellow European Union member Poland.
Dell's move, cutting 1,900 of 3,000 jobs at its Limerick plant in Ireland's southwest, aims to benefit from lower costs in Poland where the minimum wage is one-fifth of Ireland's.
It also suggests a symbolic reversal of one of the signature trends of early 21st-century Europe: Poles and other East Europeans flocking in millions to work in the fast-growing service and construction industries of the West.
Up to 2 million Poles are believed to have sought work abroad since Poland joined the EU in 2004, but a poll in Ireland in November indicated a third of its estimated 200,000 Polish immigrants planned to leave within a year.
Commenting on Dell's decision, spokesman Rafal Branowski said a factor was the Polish city's proximity to markets in central and eastern Europe, which he said are likely to resume rapid growth after the recession.
The European Commission is also investigating 52.7 million euros ($68 million) in aid Poland gave to Dell's Polish unit.
It's all particularly galling for Limerick, to some extent already bypassed by the boom when Ireland was known as a "Celtic Tiger." Now Ireland's economy is expected to contract by 4 percent in 2009 in its worst recession on record. Continued...