Praha - Hiring foreigners will soon become easier for Czech employers, as President Václav Klaus yesterday signed into law a bill introducing a green card programme for guest workers from non-EU countries.
The green cards, regarded by many as a revolutionary novelty of the Czech labour market, will in some cases replace traditional work permits. They will facilitate the employment of foreigners for positions that are not filled by a Czech or another EU citizen.
The cards will be issued for three years to highly qualified employees and for two years to unskilled workers. For the first year after receiving a green card, the guest worker will not be allowed to switch jobs without a consent from their first employer and green card sponsor.
ČSSD fears influx of foreigners, exploitation
The opposition keeps rejecting the plan, saying the green card holders' rights may not be sufficiently protected, and warning that an influx of foreigners may pose security or health risks.
"Guest workers with a green card will become fully dependent on their employers and may be abused by them. We are introducing a new-age slavery," said Social Democrat (ČSSD) MP František Bublan in August when the bill was put on a vote in the lower house.
"It is bad news for all those already employed in the Czech Republic," said Zdeněk Škromach, ČSSD's shadow labour minister. "We believe that the system will not have enough time to be fully implemented and that the law will soon be amended. We will definitely change the system after the next elections."
Ludvík Hovorka (Christian Democrat) was the only coalition MP who also opposed the government's proposal during the parliamentary debate. He said he did not "regard the green card solution, the way the cabinet has submitted it, as good".
Nečas: Law includes checks
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas dismissed the opposition's objections in September after the bill passed the Senate.
"The system has a number of checks. For example, a green card can only be issued for a specific position that cannot be filled by a Czech applicant," the minister said. He added that the programme will only be available for citizens of countries selected by the Interior Ministry. The ministry will also make sure the guest workers pose no security or health risks.
"All positions will only be offered to green card seekers after first being openly advertised on a public website. Only those [unwanted] positions will then become available through the green card programme," Nečas added.