Czechia: Latest developments in working life Q3 2019
Efforts to boost the Czech workforce by increasing the number of foreign workers in the country, a strike alert from education trade unions, and the funding level for social partner projects in 2020 are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Czechia in the third quarter of 2019.
New measures for foreign workers to boost workforce
An amendment to the law on the residence of foreign nationals in Czechia led to the introduction of a long-term work visa (maximum one year) on 1 September 2019. The aim of the amendment is to encourage workers from abroad to fill labour shortages in certain sectors and industries. The amendment also defines new annual quotas for the number of applications filed with Czech representative offices abroad: 41,000 workers from Ukraine, 2,500 each from Serbia and Montenegro, 1,000 from Mongolia, 1,000 from the Philippines, 800 from Belarus, 600 from India, 600 from Moldova, and 300 from Kazakhstan.
The new requirements for employing workers from abroad are aimed at employers who have been operating in the Czech production, services or public sectors for at least two years; have fulfilled all the obligations to the state; and have at least six employees. The existing projects and schemes relating to economic migration will merge into three new government programmes.
- Key and Scientific Staff programme: This replaces the former programmes Fast Track and Welcome Package for Investors. It includes a new option for hiring new employees (in the past, support was only available for in-house transfers and the localisation of employees).
- High-Qualified Employee programme: This programme is now open to high-qualified employees from Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, the Philippines, Serbia and Ukraine (in the past, it was only open to Ukrainian and Indian employees).
- Qualified Employee programme: This programme is now open to qualified employees from all of the above-mentioned countries (in the past, it was only open to Filipino, Mongolian, Serbian and Ukrainian employees).
In addition, this amendment implements a transposition directive from the EU that will allow foreign university students and scientific workers to stay in Czechia for up to nine months after completing their study or research activity, in order to look for a job or set up a business.
- Zákony pro lidi: Zákon č. 326/1999 Sb
Education trade union announces strike alert over pay dispute
In late August 2019, the Czech Ministry of Finance presented a proposal for the state budget for 2020. For the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, the proposed budget includes an increase of CZK 17.8 billion (€0.69 billion as at 28 October 2019) compared to 2019. The sum for the wages of regional school employees will increase by CZK 12.8 billion (€0.5 billion), with a pay rise of 10% for teachers and 7.2% for non-teaching staff.
The Czech and Moravian Trade Union of Workers in Education (ČMOS PŠ) disagreed with the proposed rise and demanded a 15% increase for teachers and 10% increase for non-teaching staff.  According to the trade union, the wage increases proposed by the Ministry of Finance for 2020 and 2021 are not high enough to meet the 2021 wage level that was promised in the government’s 2018 policy statement (a 150% increase on the 2017 wage level). 
The Working Team for Education and Human Resources of the Council of Economic and Social Agreement of the Czech Republic held an extraordinary session, but no agreement was reached. ČMOS PŠ therefore announced a strike alert on 24 September. In the following weeks, the Ministry of Education presented several proposals about how the pay should be increased, but no consensus was reached as of the end of Q3 and the threat of a strike remains. 
- Czech government: Návrh zákona o státním rozpočtu České republiky na rok 2020 včetně rozpočtové dokumentace
Funding agreed for social partner projects in 2020
Since 2015, the Ministry of Labour has provided funds for social partner projects in areas that are important to employees (for example, wages, production, the economy, and cultural and social conditions).
Social partners requested CZK 37.5 million (€1.5 million) of project funding for 2020. After the proposed projects were assessed based on their meaningfulness, economic impact and potential duplication, this figure was revised to CZK 36.8 million (€1.4 million). The projects, which are mostly educational, informational and analytical in character, will focus on the topics of:
- temporary agency employment
- gender aspects linked to the security of retired people
- the polarisation of Czech companies as a consequence of Industry 4.0
- the impact of tax harmonisation and proposed taxes on the business sector
- the employment of disadvantaged groups
- workforce adaptability
- employee rights related to digitisation and automation
In August 2019, the Czech labour market had a worker shortage of approximately 350,000 employees. The new programmes for employing workers from abroad should bring approximately 48,000 new foreign workers per year (provided that the Czech economy continues to grow over the coming months).
Negotiations in the education sector will continue. The strike alert by ČMOS PŠ has been supported by the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS) and the confederation has asked Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for a meeting to discuss the situation. The ČMKOS leaders are demanding an increase of CZK 1,650 (€64). Due to the economic slowdown, the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (SPCR) says that the increase should be a maximum of 5%.