Migration at the Intersection of State Policies and Public Tenders in Times of Economic Crisis: The case of migrant forest workers in the Czech Republic
This paper focuses on a particular case of exploitation in the Czech Republic of hundreds of migrant workers from Vietnam, Romania, Slovakia and other countries who planted trees and did forestry work in 2009 and 2010. The case is situated at the intersection of state policies that interact with each other in complex ways: state-forestry policies, public-tendering rules, migration policies and labour-market policies. During the economic crisis, the state co-created a vulnerable ethicised and criminalised migrant workforce, which met the demand for cheap labour in forestry.
Subcontracting in forestry in the Czech Republic has distanced management from labour and allowed for an unequal distribution of profits among factions of capital and labour. The public-tender chain, a notion introduced in the article, points to the influence of particular conditions governing public procurement. The main criterion for winning a contract is cost, which puts pressure on wages and working conditions at the bottom of the chain. Hidden power hierarchies often permeate the public-tender chain. However, certain moments and strategies can open this ‘black box’.