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Czech News in English » News » National » Green cards? Very few have them

Green cards? Very few have them

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The project that should make the employment of foreigners easier is meeting with firms’ lack of interest. Although factories need gastarbeiters even today, they only want to hire them.

Only a single person from a non-EU country has found use for a green card in the Czech Republic, according to the latest figures of the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. The programme launched at the beginning of the year that should make foreign workers’ arrival in the country easier and faster by simplifying the bureaucratic procedure, has totally failed. Or more precisely – it has met with a minimum interest of both employers and workers. And the reason is by far not the economic crisis and the dozens of thousands of gastarbeiters leaving the country.

“Currently the ministry’s interest is to issue green cards only in substantiated cases and free positions have to be filled with citizens of the Czech Republic, the EU, or with those foreigners who live in the country and lost their job because of the crisis,” said the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs’ spokeswoman Štěpánka Filipová.

Dozens of thousands of foreigners have lost their jobs this year. Firms are still interested in hundreds of others, though. For example, the Plzeň-based producer of TV sets, Panasonic, is now hiring several dozens of them. “The green cards project is not at all interesting for us, we have never been considering recruiting people directly,” said the Panasonic’s human resources manager Zdeněk Netřebský.

The company with almost 4,000 people, only half of which is skeleton staff, needs to have free hand when dealing with hundreds of workers, similarly like other assembly plants and car producers. Skeleton staff must not be dismissed from day to day when the number of commissions declines, they must be paid out high severance pay, are entitled to paid holiday and the company has to have a personnel department.

Recruiting agencies can do all that for the companies. These agencies employ workers who came to the country with work permit and rent them to factories even for temporary jobs. Even though they have to provide visa for them.

“It’s a bad timing for green cards. The state has been preparing them for six years and in the meantime, a secondary, although sometimes questionable, system has developed here. And it’s offering better conditions for companies,” said Jaroslav Míl, the president of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic. In his opinion, green cards do not make sense in the current situation.

Also the difference in wages and conditions for hired and skeleton workers reflect the zero interest in green cards and the continuing system of hiring workers through agencies. Although the law requires equal treatment, hired foreigners often get much lower hourly wage than skeleton workers. They often know about it in factories, but they are not forced to deal with it. Workers hired from agencies cost less.

“I have never encountered a case that someone would be really consistently checking and comparing the official wage conditions with both groups of workers. Many agencies can therefore quote minimum wage for workers. And they don’t often pay the right amount of taxes from that,” said Rudolf Pavlík, the owner of one of the recruiting agencies.

Green cards
Since January one green card enabling legal work in the Czech Republic has been issued to one foreigner from a non-EU country. Out of 86 applications, other 12 cards are ready.

There were 418 free positions for holders of green cards at the beginning of July, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs’ database. Altogether, there are 43,402 free positions.

252,000 foreigners from EU and non-EU countries are now officially working in the Czech Republic. The same number is allegedly staying in the country illegally.

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