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August 17, 2003 06:00am
German Brothel's Recruitment Conundrum
Source: Uk Reuters
by: Dave Graham

(GOERLITZ, GERMANY) -- In less than a month, Ulrich Kueperkoch will open his new brothel. Calls have been pouring in from patrons eager to pay a visit. The only problem is, he has no girls to welcome them.

Germany's Federal Labour Office has rejected his job adverts seeking "hostesses for erotic services" for his "Golden 3 Privatclub" near the historic town of Goerlitz on the Polish border, even though prostitution is legal in Germany.

In fact, prostitutes enjoy worker protection rights and are eligible for social security benefits under a law passed in 2001 by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's centre-left government.

Kueperkoch's dispute with the Labour Office, which runs a network of job-placement agencies, has grabbed headlines because it shows the country's bureaucracy is lagging behind the progressive policy makers in Berlin.

A spokesman for the Federal Labour Office in Nuremberg said: "We believe an individual's rights can be infringed if they are faced by these kinds of job placement offers against their will. So we decided not to be active in that market sector."

Kueperkoch, 45, a chatty and affable divorcee with a teenage daughter, said the office's objection was beside the point. "I only want the adverts to be available to interested parties. Of course I'm against the idea of someone having to take the job.

"I could easily run the club with freelance workers and just let the rooms. But I want to run a normal business and pay my taxes," he said. "If the state says the women can work, I expect the authorities to do their part for me in return."

So far Kueperkoch's efforts to recruit workers by advertising in newspapers have led to only unacceptable offers.

"I've had offers to staff the club -- but only by 'buying' the women which I'm against. One guy turned up with his wife and said I could do anything with her for six months for 7,500 euros (4,635 pounds). I want no part in that. The women must want the job."

With about 4.5 million jobless and the government struggling to meet its budget deficit targets, Kueperkoch said it was naive of the Labour Office to take a moral stand against a profession that is a fact of life.

"If you look at newspaper ads, it's plain to see how many people are working in the sex trade. Of them, at least 50 percent work illegally and contribute nothing to the state."

Government Must Go All the Way

Kueperkoch believes only genuine government backing for its own legislation will rid the trade which employs some 400,000 people in Germany of its associations with crime and vice.

"What we need is a transparent market. If the authorities force the sex trade underground, it will remain in the control of illegal and criminal elements," he said.

His sentiments were echoed by a member of parliament for the opposition liberal Free Democrats, Marita Sehn, who is backing Kueperkoch.

"Prostitution must be regulated. This should help to curb the influence of criminals, and improve the lot of those working in it. Banning the adverts seems dishonest because this is an issue which exists and will not just go away," she told Reuters.

Sehn added it was unreasonable for the Labour Office to impede job seekers in the economically depressed east of the country, a situation Kueperkoch is quick to draw attention to.

"The irony is that unemployment is at 20 percent around here," he said. "If everything goes according to plan, my club will create 20 full-time jobs, with everyone paying taxes."

However, the lure of increased tax revenues is evidently not enough to overcome misgivings about permitting the world's oldest profession equal status on today's job market.

"I think they're moral objections," said Stephanie Klee, the head of Germany's Federal Association for Sexual Services, who also works independently as a prostitute.

"The problem in implementing the prostitution law is that a lot of local authorities are being confronted by prostitution for the first time, and they don't know how to deal with it."

Kueperkoch says the chances of the Labour Office's decision being overturned by a court before he opens are minimal. In his view, hypocrisy on the subject of prostitution is still too rampant in Western society for it to be tolerated openly.

"When I spoke to a banker to get a loan for my plans, he dismissed it as a joke and treated me like a schoolboy. Three days later he unwittingly showed up at my club looking for sex," said Kueperkoch with a grin. "I told him where he could go."

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