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8 May 2017

Czechia: Migration should be based on equal pay

In an effort to limit the entrance of refugees and third country nationals, a Czech Bill aimed at tightening conditions for foreigners and curbing economic migration was passed in April 2017. If the Bill is approved by the Senate, employers will be barred from taking on third country workers if the firms get into debt, fail to pay social insurance or are found guilty of making illegal hires.

The Czech government’s migration policy has always been ambiguous. The underlying philosophy in the past was that the best outcome for migrants was to come to the country for a limited period and then to depart.

On the other hand, however, the government introduced in recent years several initiatives to attract temporary foreign labour into the country. In 2016 a pilot project aimed recruiting temporary skilled Ukrainian workers to fill labour shortages in the jobs market, with an annual quota of 500 recruited workers. The Ukrainian workers were seen as a compromise that could be more acceptable to the public. However, the pilot was not a big success. In response, the government relaxed some of the hiring requirements for the foreign workers, notably the minimum wage of 38,000 crowns that employees would have to guarantee. This was changed to the level of the average wage for the region where the employer is based. Among the industries that have sought for foreign labour are the medical and care sector, but also agriculture. The actual unemployment rate lies at 4.8% (by April 2017). One of the problems is in agriculture is, for instance, that both the number of agricultural workers and students of secondary schools focusing on agriculture agricultural have fallen to a record low. The fast-track programme for Ukrainians was supported by the Czech Confederation of Industry.  

From the beginning, the Czech and Moravian Confederation of Trades Unions (ČMKOS) formulated serious question marks about the recruitment programme and criticised the employers’ policy. Their experience is that employers are offering pay and conditions that are so low that Czechs simply would not work at such rates. The union argues that an additional problem in the skills shortage is the fact that employers are not willing to train workers so that they can fill the vacancies. Moreover, the trade unions try to seek guarantees that recruited foreign skilled workers get the same sort of wages as their Czech colleagues. The unions always have made clear statements against xenophobia. The challenge will be to organise migrant workers.

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