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Switzerland — Unions want minimum salaries in order to avoid a fiasco

15 February 2010

Unions in the small land-locked country, which is surrounded by much larger economies with lower wage levels, are concerned that if the government does not do anything about controlling the salary levels of cross-border workers there will be social unrest, Le Nouvelliste reports.

According to the 'Unia' union, the differences in salaries paid to Swiss workers and foreign cross-border workers in the Geneva-based chemical sector has increased from 10.7% in the year 2000 to 16.3% in 2008. During the same period the workforce share of cross-border workers in the regional industry has increased from 18% to 34%.

These figures reveal that expensive Swiss workers are replaced with cheaper workers from neighbouring countries such as France and to a lesser degree Italy due to a greater geographical distance.

Paul Rechsteiner, President of the USS union, told Le Nouvelliste "in times of crisis and higher unemployment salaries have to be protected because of free labour circulation between countries. Salary pressures are a threat for the Swiss indigenous labour force."

Renzo Ambrosetti, Co-President of Unia, said "this is a social time bomb, which will only benefit xenophobic demagogues."

The unions agree that something needs to be done by the government in order to prevent large differences between salaries paid to Swiss employees and cross-border employees.

However, Daniel Lampart from the USS union says that "the Health Service will have to be treated differently because there is a total lack of Swiss personnel in that sector. Too few people are trained for the Health sector and too many are leaving the Health sector because working conditions are getting worse and people can no longer reconcile their working lives with their private lives."



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