Foreign workers have become a major issue in Greenland. Latest example is the numbers of Philippines and Thais cleaning, cooking and serving in the welcoming business.
Since January 1st 2011 81 Philippines and 39 Thais has obtained working permits in Greenland. The number may seems small but being a nation with only 57,000 inhabitants and an unemployment rate at eight percent the use of Asians in hotels and restaurants has raised attention.
60 percent Asians
At the four star luxury hotel Hans Egede, the largest privately owned hotel in the capital Nuuk, 60 percent of the staff in house-keeping are Asians.
“The number draws attention because of the high unemployment rate among unskilled Greenlanders,” says Jess G. Berthelsen, chairman for the Greenland union SIK,
According to SIK the Philippines and Thais wages are in line with SIK’s minimum wages but they work six or seven days a week and with shifting working hours without compensation.
Part owner of Hotel Hans Egede Carl Juhl warns against, what he calls a smear campaign against Asian working in Greenland. He fears his employees can be victims of persecution and harassment.
“Please show me one hotel anywhere in the world without Asians employees. This is not a special Greenland phenomena, Asians works in hotels everywhere,” Says Carl Juhl.
Restaurant- and bar owner Joergen Pedersen claims that Asian workers are required to run his business. He runs eight bars and restaurants employing 110 persons, a quarter of them coming from Asian countries.
“Fact is that I can’t get the needed labor in Nuuk. If we could we would prefer that, because it is extremely expensive to recruit from abroad,” says Joergen Pedersen.
He calls the heated debate emotional porn. A debate that’s includes extreme views as “Asians stealing jobs” and “Greenlanders to lazy or unfit to work”.
No lack of good labour
At the west coast of Greenland the likewise four stars hotel Actic has chosen another approach to solve their need for employees. If they can’t find locals with the needed skills they train them themselves.
“We have decided to invest in the local labour force,” tells managing director Erik Bjerregaard.
He won’t comment on how other Hotel’s chose to run their businesses, but pinpoint that Hotel Actic has no problem finding good local labour.
“I’ll just note that it has a cumulative effect, if you start to get foreign labor,” says Erik Bjerregaard.
Chinese invasion to come
Landstinget, the parliament in Greenland, later this month will have to decide on a special law that will allow huge scale project to import cheap foreign labour. A large mining project and an aluminium smelter project depend on the parliament allowing import of Chinese labour.
If or more likely when Greenland’s parliament has adopted the “huge scale law” it has to be adopted by the Danish parliament as well. Two parties, the left wing Enhedslisten and nationalistic Dansk Folkeparti, has announced their opposition against the law as well as the Danish unions has criticised the law, clamming that it will legalise social dumping.