Czech Agriculture Ministry advises hiring Ukrainian labor despite domestic Romani labor offer for bark beetle work
News server Lidovky.cz has long been reporting that the Czech Republic does not have enough labor available to deal with the consequences of the bark beetle calamity in its forests. Last June the Association of Romani Entrepreneurs and Guilds of the Czech Republic (ARPS) said its members could provide 1 000 workers for the effort.
Despite that communication, Lidovky.cz now reports that in April of this year the Czech Agriculture Ministry explicitly urged domestic firms to bring in more workers from Ukraine. According to Vojtěch Bílý, spokesperson for the ministry, the problem is that the ARPS labor force is not sufficiently qualified.
"To process the wood affected by this calamity, unfortunately, those people customarily do not have the necessary qualifications, for example, to work with a chainsaw or to use chemical sprays," Bílý told Lidovky.cz. According to the ARPS, however, their negotiation with Lesy ČR, the state enterprise that manages the forests, was exactly about the unqualified labor aspect of the project.
"We are interested in the unqualified labor, such as, for example, collecting brushwood and similar tasks, but the unit prices are not economically attractive enough for us to implement such works over a longer period of time," ARPS president Vladimír Leško told the news server. The ministry says collaboration with Romani guilds has been implemented in previous years.
Romani firms, according to ministry data, implemented commissions worth CZK 40 million [EUR 1.6 million] in 2017 and the volume was similar last year. Leško disagrees with those numbers.
"I am hearing that information for the first time," the ARPS president commented on the numbers, adding that at the most, the overall value of the Agriculture Ministry commissions implemented by ARPS member firms during that period had been CZK 5 million [EUR 194 000]. In a document published at the end of April, the Czech Agriculture Ministry is literally advising that firms bring Ukrainian workers to the Czech Republic as fast as possible "especially to liquidate the consequences of the bark beetle calamity".
Leško is criticizing that approach. "For quite some time now we have been arguing that it is inefficient to import unqualified labor into our state from foreign countries," he said, referencing what he said is good collaboration between ARPS and Czech Railways, the Railway Infrastructure Administration, and the Road and Motorway Directorate.
"We have many unqualified people in the Czech Republic, not just Romani people, who are able to perform work that does not require demanding expertise," Leško said. "We believe that over time there will be fewer negotiations and more actual steps taken on this issue, which is why we don't want to keep bullshitting about this, we want to get to work."
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