Polish Plumber (French: le plombier polonais, Polish: polski hydraulik) was a phrase first used by Philippe Val in Charlie Hebdo and popularised by Philippe de Villiers as a symbol of cheap labour coming in from Central Europe as a result of the Directive on services in the internal market during the EU Constitution referendum in France in 2005.
The phrase became well known after Frits Bolkestein, the creator of the Directive, noted during a press conference that he would like to hire a Polish plumber because he finds it hard to find a good handyman for his second house in northern France. The proclamation caused considerable controversy and debate in France. The mayor of the village in which Bolkestein resided gave him a list of available plumbers he found in the phone book.
The phrase was then the origin of a controversy during the EU Constitution referendum about the motivations of the opponents to the treaty: Some supporters assumed that the opposition to the treaty was due to nationalist considerations when some of the opponents considered that it was used to discredit them.
It is also a fictional character featured in a poster by the Polish tourism board in response to what was perceived as negative rhetoric against Poland. The Polish Plumber is portrayed by 21-year-old male model Piotr Adamski, who beckons French tourists to come to Poland in French. T-shirts were also produced featuring the Polish Plumber and a follow up poster featured "Polish Nurse", a female equivalent, portrayed by 22 year old Bożena Szwarc. Her phrase is "Pologne: Je t'attends" ("Poland: I'm waiting for you.")
The campaign of the Swiss Socialist Party in favour of the free circulation of people in the context of European bilateral deals also features the character, with the slogan Plombiers de tous les pays, unissez-vous! ("Plumbers of all countries, unite!", in reference to the famous slogan and last words of the Communist Manifesto, "Working men of all countries, unite!").
The "Polish plumber" cliché may symbolize fear of cheap Central and East European labor to threaten jobs for West Europeans. On the other hand, British media sounded a positive note, praising affordability and reliability of immigrants' work. Also, statistics for 2003-2007 about East European immigrants to the UK shows that half of them are Poles. It also turned out that Poles mean new business in some areas: some shops introduced bilingual English-Polish signs, "Polish language" sections in bookstores, police hires Polish-language staff, etc.
- "Beneficial immigration", by Vanessa Quick, September 2007