Roma in the Czech Republic (as in a number of other European countries) are, in the public imagination, ‘social parasites’ who do not work, are not interested in working and opt for life on benefits instead. This article, based on ethnographic research in the city of Ostrava, reveals the contrary. Roma workers clean the streets and trains, fix the city’s road infrastructure, dig up roads and replace water and gas pipelines. One reason for the ‘invisibility’ of Roma work is that officially it does not exist. For much of it is carried out without an employment contract and is informal. Roma labour in Ostrava is highly racialised and Roma as a group constitute a significant part of the ‘reserve army of labour’. This does not mean their total exclusion from the labour force; rather it involves highly unstable, socially insecure and often physically dangerous forms of labour.