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Industrial action Construction and Geneva workers continue three-day ‘strike’

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Construction workers demonstrating in Bellinzona, canton Ticino, on Monday

(Keystone)

Nearly 10,000 canton Geneva employees, among them many teachers and police officers, took to the streets on Tuesday to protest staff cuts. Their strike coincides with that of construction workers all over Switzerland.

Also on Tuesday, some 3,000 construction workers in the German-speaking part of Switzerland downed tools on the second of three days of nationwide industrial action against the sector’s collective bargaining agreement. 

On Monday, around 2,500 workers did the same in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. On Wednesday, construction sites will stay quiet in the French-speaking part of the country. The collective bargaining agreement sets out conditions of employment for workers. The strike by the canton Geneva employees is also expected to continue on Wednesday.

Compared with its European neighbours, strikes are rare in Switzerland due to a long tradition of avoiding industrial conflict through negotiation. The collective bargaining agreement sets out conditions of employment for workers. 

Unions Unia and Syna said on Monday that the construction workers in canton Ticino had sent an initial signal. But there was no talk of a strike: the workers had put in overtime in order to take part in the protests, explained Kurt Regotz, chief negotiator for Syna. It was above all a measure intended to disrupt work, he added. 

Fronts have been hardening in the construction sector for months. Construction companies want to renew the existing national working agreements but Unia and Syna are only prepared to discuss a new contract along with wage negotiations, the financing for pensions at the age of 60 and measures in favour of better health protection and against undercutting salary levels. 

If the two sides fail to reach an agreement by the end of the year, there risks being a “contract-free situation”, something both sides say they want to avoid. 

The next round of talks is set to take place at the end of the month, but the construction companies have said they are only willing to discuss wages for 2016 and early retirement – not national contracts.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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