Czech Radio: Employers complain programme to attract Ukrainian labour is hardly fast-track

Photo: Mohammed Shaker / freeimages

Czech firms are having trouble filling positions for manual labour or industrial work, Czech Radio reports. Half-a-year ago, the government launched a pilot programme to attract foreigners, primarily from Ukraine, to the Czech Republic, by speeding up the visa application process. The emphasis was originally on skilled jobs such as IT; it turns out that what some companies need more is to fill vacancies for manual and factory jobs. That in itself is not a problem: what is, is that successful applicants aren’t being processed fast enough.

Photo: Mohammed Shaker / freeimages
The fast-track programme was aimed at making it easier for high school students and university graduates largely from Ukraine to get work permits which would help fill gaps in the Czech labour market. But to hear critics of the programme put it, there is nothing fast-track about it; the head of the Czech Confederation of Employers’ and Entrepreneur’s Associations Jan Wiesner told public broadcaster Czech Radio that the paperwork to get Ukrainians permits was taking far too long:

“Our entrepreneurs need labourers because they have enough commissions but unfortunately they cannot take offers because they don’t have enough people to handle the jobs. We need for Ukrainians to receive the necessary permits in a far quicker timeframe so that they can come and work in the Czech Republic.”

Mr Weisner estimates the process currently can take as long as six months, and eternity in the jobs market. Numbers released recently by the Industry and Trade Ministry numbers put it clearly: the pilot programme has attracted just 69 applicants – 40 of whom received or – and here’s the rub – are “in the process of receiving their permits”.

Firms would be happier if at least some of those were already sorted. One who did get the green light is Vajcheslav Samko, who moved to the Czech Republic with his family; even though he has two university degrees – in law and chemistry – and did not land a so-called white collar job, he is happy working for a furniture manufacturing company. His family, too, backed his decision.

“My family likes it here, my daughter has friends at school and is interested in skating. There is a nice shopping zone, and my family says everything is good.”

Firms are putting pressure on the government to take steps, as there is presumably plenty of work by-and-large not attracting Czechs. In their view, more personnel need to be hired at Czech offices in Ukraine to help process applications. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka commented, saying his cabinet was aware of the situation.

“We agreed that we would need to increase staff at our bureaux in Ukraine as well as at the Interior Ministry to have more people to process work permits.”

The Czech Republic has a substantial Ukrainian community some 100,000 strong; nevertheless, employers have made clear there are jobs out there the taking, if successful applications are handled a good deal faster than now.