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Show of strength


Unions stage protest for fair work conditions


By Urs Geiser



The demonstration outside the parliament building was one of the biggest trade union rallies in recent years (Keystone)

The demonstration outside the parliament building was one of the biggest trade union rallies in recent years

(Keystone)

Trade union demonstrators have urged the government and parliament to put an end to unfair salaries and plans to lower old age pensions. An estimated 15,000 people took part in the mass rally in the capital, Bern, according to organisers.

Leaders of the Trade Union Federation criticised the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the country and political attempts to undermine labour standards.

In their speeches in the three national languages German, French and Italian, outside parliament on Saturday, they also slammed planned public spending cuts as well as tax breaks for the wealthy.

The president of the Trade Union Federation, Paul Rechsteiner, called on the protesters to fight against greedy bosses and against gender discrimination at the workplace.

He stressed the importance of a proposal to introduce a nationwide minimum salary and an initiative seeking a 1:12 ratio between the highest and lowest wages within a company. Voters will have the final say on this initiative in November.

“It is time for a social turn,” he told the meeting.

Salary demands

Ahead of Sunday’s nationwide ballot on liberalising opening hours at petrol station shops, union leader Alain Carrupt warned of health risks if nighttime working hours were extended.

At the rally messages were also read out in Spanish, Portuguese and Serb intended for the language communities of the main immigrant groups often employed in low-paid jobs.

The Trade Union Federation, which represents 380,000 members in 16 different groups, has called for wage increases of up to two per cent next year.

Presenting its salary demands earlier this month, the federation said workers with average salaries had not benefited enough from the favourable economic situation in Switzerland compared high-wage earners.

By Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch



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