Though neither Germany nor Poland has extensive coastlines, the Bavarian salmon preparation company Laschinger has expanded its fish selling business into Eastern Europe while keeping plenty of jobs in Germany.
Eastern European's appetite for salmon keeps growing
While concerns in Western Europe soaring after the May 2004 EU expansion about a possible influx of Eastern European workers flooding the market with cheap labor, managers at Laschinger were making plans to expand east.
Already one of Europe's leading salmon preparers, Laschinger, which is based in the Bavarian town of Bischofmais, bought up Polish subsidiary Laurin Seafood and got a head-start on delivering fish to Hungary and the Czech Republic. It did this without significantly altering the way it does business in Germany.
Salmon pile up to be cleaned
None of Laschinger's 650 employees in Germany were fired or moved across the border. In fact, the company can't afford to let any employees leave. It was only Germany's recent labor market reforms that helped the fish processor train enough long-term unemployed to fill its open low-wage jobs.
Long-term unemployed find work
"Naturally, we want to give them a chance so they receive a one-week training period here," said Holger Hain, Laurin's general manager. "Then if they say, 'Okay, this is the job I'd like' things usually work out."
But before consumers can sit down to a pink slab of Baltic smoked salmon, Laschinger's fish head removers have to put their skills to the test, taking care not to let too much meat fall to the packing room floor.
"One percent meat loss means a drop in revenue of about three million euros ($3.63 million)," Hain said as one of the company's choppers expertly removed a fish's head with a slice of the knife.
Non-German business increasing
Salmon ready to eat
As the remodeled Laurin processing plant in Lebork, Poland, approaches its one-year anniversary as a Laschinger subsidiary, some 400 employees make sure trucks full of salmon roll to discount grocery store chains across Europe.
While most the fish make their way to German tables, 30 percent are destined for other Europeans' stomachs. Hungary and the Czech Republic have become major salmon markets, while Laurin's native Polish employees rarely are able to enjoy the fish of their labors.
"Poland is a very large land with a very large area, at the moment every store has to be delivered to individually," Hain explained. "Customers are building central warehouses now then we'll deliver to them too."