In 2018, in the giant car factory close to Prague, the Ukrainian workers got information leaflets written in their mother tongue. The local trade union organization decided to launch a campaign to hire regular workers from Ukraine. “About 160 Ukrainian employees work here, a third of them joined us. We want them to have as much information as possible, so we try to disseminate information to them in their native language and I think that is the right way,” the leader of local trade unions, Ivo Navalaný, explained. This situation represents an exception from the common Czech practice in which trade unions focus mostly on Czech employees and communication in Czech.
“Trade unions perceive the barriers foreign workers face, but they think foreign workers must want to organize themselves if they want trade unions’ support,” the Czech server migrationline.cz summarized the discussion between trade unions representatives and representatives of civil society organization in 2016.
The Czech SIRIUS report based on the review of existing literature and interviews with key actors involved in the social dialogue showed that the situation has not changed for the last four years. Unqualified foreign workers represent the most vulnerable group in the Czech labour market. They often do not speak Czech. They do not know their rights and their living and working conditions are precarious and insecure. They might be also afraid to join trade unions because of the threat of losing their jobs.
While migrants are of particular interest to a large number of employers, their social integration remains a marginal issue within the social dialogue. Migrant workers’ labour conditions are viewed only in a larger context of workers’ situation in general. Among the factors which prevent opportunities for social dialogue are most often mentioned a large irregular labour market, work fluctuation among foreigners, a lack of language skills on the side of migrants as well as their employees. Moreover, the key actors involved in social dialogue mentioned the following barriers: migrants’ limited knowledge of labour law, lack of political will to strengthen social dialogue or to deal with labour migration issues as well as the lack of will among employers to strengthen social dialogue.
Progress in terms of social dialogue concerning the integration of MRAs in the labour market is undermined by insufficient coordination efforts between involved actors, mainly the Chamber of Commerce and other associations of employees, trade unions, NGOs and state institutions. The role of each party in creating an environment conducive to fair working conditions for the migrants is only vaguely defined.
Despite these trends, the research registered emerging attempts to stimulate MRAs participation in trade unions and to open the migration topic on their agenda. There have recently been several emerging initiatives that cater for the inclusion of migrants’ needs in trade unions’ agendas. These initiatives are prioritised only by smaller and less influential independent trade unions, even though strengthening of trade union capacities for campaigning among workers who do not speak Czech seems is the crucial issue to make foreign workers conditions better.
Last but not least, approaches and attitudes towards integration strategies vary among social partners, including trade unions and employers’ association, reflecting specific interests, with some representatives projecting hostile discourses on migration. Economic interests, however, represent a common denominator across different partners, with trade unions being concerned with social dumping on the one hand, and chambers of commerce and employers’ associations eager to supply business with (cheap) labour, on the other.
If you want to know more about the Czech Republic social partners role in the integration of migrants, refugees and asylum applicants into labour markets, please have a look here at our Czech Republic Chapter in our WP5 Report (37-52).