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Czechia

Most serious infringements of working conditions [page 16-18]

“Implements Principles 1, 2 and 8

Even in advanced countries, we come across cases where employees find themselves in a highly vulnerable position and are required to put up with undignified working conditions, and where their employer, for instance, refuses to pay them. The victims of this abuse are frequently foreign nationals as they have limited opportunity to defend themselves. Evidence of such practices can also be found in the Czech Republic. [The footnote states that “In 2008, an organised group was detected that had been recruiting farmworkers abroad. These recruits, sometimes working between 12 and 18 hours a day, were paid only a fraction of the wages they had been promised (Judgment of the Supreme Court 7 Tdo 1261/2013 of 12 March 2014). In 2009, there was a case where at least 22 construction workers were found to have been enslaved for up to 2 years (Judgment of the Supreme Court 4 Tdo 366/2013 of 14 May 2013). Between 2009 and 2011, there were several cases of large-scale labour exploitation involving up to several hundred workers in the forestry sector (Finding of the Constitutional Court II. ÚS 3436/14 of 19 January 2016 and Finding of the Constitutional Court I. ÚS 3196/12 of 12 August 2014).”] Those working in other people’s households are another risk group. Such actions have fallout for employees, for the state (which is robbed of taxes and insurance contributions), and for honest businesses, who cannot compete with such labour.

Whereas minor cases of labour-law violations are subject to checks by labour inspection bodies, more serious cases can be prosecuted as crimes. However, for these modern-day unfair practices to be detected and prevented effectively, there needs to be coordinated cooperation between many state bodies and social partners. There may be numerous labour-law violations in supply chains, via temporary employment agencies, or at entities that act as recruiters but do not hold a permit to do so. To make it possible to stamp out these most serious forms of abuse, businesses themselves should pay attention to working conditions at their partners and, if they detect any breaches of the law, they should either demand that corrective action be taken or sever ties. The state’s role here is to create a functioning labour market that will not cater to illegal practices. This does not mean just the repression of the perpetrators, but also the shaping of conditions conducive to the legal employment of foreign nationals.

Current state of play:

  • The Czech Republic has ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Private Employment Agencies Convention (Convention No 181).
  • Directive 2008/104/EC on temporary agency work, regulating this area at EU level, and Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals have been transposed into Czech law.
  • A methodological guideline of the Inspector General of the State Labour Inspectorate Authority has been issued to harmonise inspection procedures in checks focusing on temporary agency work.
  • The constituent elements of misdemeanours and administrative offences in labour law are being clarified.
  • A law is being drawn up that will tighten conditions for the establishment and operation of temporary employment agencies. Users drawing on the services of such agencies are to be made co-responsible for the observance of commensurable wage and working conditions for temporary employees, and compulsory deposits are being introduced for each agency.
  • The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs hosts the Interministerial Body to Combat the Illegal Employment of Foreign Nationals, which plays a coordinating role, and the Economic and Social Agreement Council’s Working Party on the Mediation of Employment by Temporary Employment Agencies.
  • A Concept for the Prevention of the Labour Exploitation of European Union Citizens in the Czech Republic has been produced.
  • The Czech Republic activity combats human trafficking in accordance with the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking in the Czech Republic 2016-2019.
  • Czech law contains procedures to help victims of human trafficking to legalise their stay [g. Section 42e of Act No 326/1999 on the residence of foreign nationals in the Czech Republic and amending certain acts, as amended] and to find work. [E.g. Section 97(d) and Section 98(p) of Act No 435/2004 on employment.] Although victims can take their claims to the civil courts, lawsuits tend to be lengthy and arduous for someone who cannot speak the language, is unfamiliar with the legal system, and does not have the money for a lawyer. In criminal proceedings, victims may be represented by an agent, such as a non-profit organisation. [Section 50 of Act No 141/1961 on criminal proceedings (the Code of Criminal Procedure).]
  • Under the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking in the Czech Republic 2016-2019, an analysis is being conducted of flaws in selected labour-law regulations that could pander to an exploitative working environment (Task 1 of the National Strategy).

Tasks:

  • Focus, via labour inspection bodies, on unravelling the illegal employment of foreign nationals and running checks on temporary employment agencies and other entities acting as recruiters without the necessary permit.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
    Deadline: Running
  • Evaluate the implementation of Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals. The evaluation will include an analysis of the extra administrative burden and the ramifications for businesses.
    Coordinator: Ministry of the Interior
    Co-coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
    Deadline: 31 December 2022
  • Assess whether illegal employment is genuinely being earnestly prosecuted.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
    Deadline: Running, with a comprehensive assessment on 31 December 2022
  • Make arrangements to raise foreign nationals’ awareness of their labour rights and obligations.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
    Deadline: Running
  • Raise law enforcement agencies’ awareness of issues specific to human trafficking, with a stress on victim protection and the non-punishment principle (i.e. the impunity and protection of those who have been forced into criminal activity). Take this principle into account in the preparation of legislation that may touch on human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
    Coordinators: Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice
    Deadline: Running”

Supply chains and conflict minerals [page 20-21]

“Increasing attention is being paid to safety conditions at work (e.g. the use of slave and child labour in mining). Risks of this type are particularly serious in areas plagued by armed conflict, which can be attributed to the absence of state authority here. Raw materials imported from geopolitically unstable regions and flashpoints may be used as a source of funding to reconstruct the country and improve the conditions in which its inhabitants live. On the other hand, various groups may exploit slave or child labour in mining operations or in factories, and the proceeds from sales could then be used to pay for weapons and soldiers. The raw materials they have mined and the products they have made are then sold on the global market, often without the buyers knowing their provenance.

This is a problem that needs to be tackled internationally. One solution lies in certification schemes proving the origin of raw materials. The certification authority guarantees that workers’ rights have not been infringed during mining or production. These certificates are issued by state and international organisations on the one hand, and private issuers on the other. Current legislation allows the public sector to take into account or to demand this certification in the course of procurement, in which case it is only necessary to comply with the conditions of transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination.”

External policy [page 28]

“Current state of play:

  • The Czech Republic is party to a number of international human rights treaties, including a set of International Labour Organisation conventions, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”

Pillar II, Scope and content of the obligation to respect human rights [page 30]

“For businesses, there are three dimensions to respect for human rights:

  • Do not commit violations of human rights: This applies to a business’s active conduct, the direct impacts of its decisions, and its operations, and may encompass:
  • The health- or life-threatening working conditions of its employees.

What human rights? States bear liability for the full range of human rights. Businesses are required to respect those rights that could be affected by their operations, and must do so to the extent of a definite minimum, generally acknowledged fundamental standard deriving from:

  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; and
  • the International Labour Organisation’s core conventions. [the footnote here states “There are eight such “core conventions”, dealing with forced labour (the 1930 and 1957 conventions), freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, equal remuneration, discrimination, minimum worker ages, and the eradication of child labour.”]

These rights are fleshed out in a series of other specific instruments, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

In practice, this concerns matters such as the ban on forced labour, child labour, and life- or health-threatening working conditions, the ban on workplace discrimination, the hindrance of association and collective bargaining, etc.”

 Pillar II, Commitment [page 32-33]

“The Government of the Czech Republic recommends that businesses adopt internal commitments in accordance with the recommendations below. …

What should a commitment encompass? …

Protection of whistleblowers: This includes, on the one hand, instructions for employees on how to proceed if they detect unlawful conduct and, on the other, protection from retaliation.”

Representation in court, legal assistance [page 44]

“Even today, a trade union organisation may represent its members and associations may, in the course of their activities, represent victims of discrimination or foreign nationals in labour cases. It is worth considering expanding opportunities for representation by those organisations in the future.

Current state of play:

  • If a party to judicial proceedings cannot afford a lawyer, the court may waive the court fees and appoint a representative if this is necessary to protect the party’s interests.
  • In August 2017, a law entered into force that ensures that low-income groups can receive free legal assistance.
  • The law allows certain legal persons (trade unions and associations) to represent parties to certain types of proceedings. [Section 26 of Act No 99/1963, the Code of Civil Procedure]
  • Environmental protection associations may enter into certain types of proceedings. [Section 70 of Act No 114/1992 on the protection of nature and the landscape]
  • Associations whose members come from a certain place and whose activities depend on the state of the environment are treated as holders of the right to a favourable environment. Consequently, they have the full rights of a party to environmental proceedings and may even claim those rights in court. [Finding of the Constitutional Court I. ÚS 59/14 of 30 May 2014]
  • The bar association may assign a low-income applicant a lawyer for the provision of free legal assistance or legal services.

Tasks:

  • Analyse issues surrounding an extension to the set of situations where legal persons may represent parties to proceedings.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Justice
    Deadline: 31 December 2020
  • Evaluate the way the system of free legal assistance for the poor and needy works, especially the cost to the state, the bar association and applicants, the speed at which lawyers are assigned, and how much paperwork is involved. Evaluate the possibility of adding to the group of those who provide legal assistance.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Justice
    Co-coordinators: Ministry for Human Rights
    Deadline: 31 December 2020”
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