A Polish tourist bureau recently lampooned French fears of eastern European workers by using the image of a buff tradesman to lure the French to Poland.

The “Polish plumber” became a catchphrase in France last spring in the weeks leading up to the country's referendum on the European Union constitution. French opposition said the predatory Polish plumbers would sweep through France and other better-off western European countries, stealing jobs by working for less pay. (Politicians also conjured up the “Latvian mason” and the “Estonian gardener” - although these got much less play.) It is one reason France soundly rejected the EU constitution last May.

Now the Polish Tourism Bureau is using the mythical character to its advantage. Last June, the bureau began featuring a plumber dressed in overalls and carrying wrenches and pipe on its French Web site. Against a backdrop of Polish sites, the image says in French: “I'm staying in Poland. Lots of you should come.”

Within a week, the site drew thousands of messages from French readers praising the ad.

“With all the bad publicity about the 'Polish plumber,' we thought why not have a sense of humor and make him work for us?” Web site creator Krzysztof Turowski told The New York Times.

The bureau also held a press conference in Paris featuring the “plumber,” 21-year-old model Piotr Adamski.

Meanwhile in its coverage, The New York Times also reported that the French plumbing union says the country suffers a shortage of 6,000 plumbers, and that there are only about 150 Polish plumbers in France.