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Accords end threat of public sector protests

Unions and the railway managment have agreed a deal following a series of protests

(Keystone Archive)

Deals between public sector trade unions and the managements of Swiss Post and the Federal Railways have put a halt to escalating protest action in Switzerland.

The Communication union said at the weekend it had agreed to a compromise which would pave the way for the restructuring of the nationwide postal network.

Senior union officials said protests over the past few weeks against job cuts and sweeping changes to the service announced earlier this year had been suspended ahead of negotiations on a social plan for affected employees.

Unions had held demonstrations in several cities against the reforms and had threatened to disrupt the delivery of letters and parcels.

The Communication and Transfair unions and the post office's management have agreed that all 500 job cuts would be achieved through natural attrition over the next two years.

Postmasters over the age of 55 will also be given job guarantees and the post office will offer incentives for employees willing to hand in their notice.

Swiss Post in October announced an overhaul of its network in an effort to remain competitive in an increasingly liberalised market. About 200 post offices will be downgraded and situated within existing village stores.

There are currently 2,500 post offices, making Switzerland a country with a relatively dense network.

Railway deal

Last Friday the Federal Railways, trade unions and employers organisations agreed a deal on renewing the collective labour agreements which are due to run out at the end of the month.

The agreement foresees the introduction of an extra hour of work per week and more flexible working hours. In return the railway management agreed to grant a 1.5 per cent increase in salaries, an additional holiday per year and to maintain the current notice periods.

Negotiations over a new collective bargaining contract had dragged on for weeks amid protests which had included strike threats.

"It's a give and take," said railways chief executive Benedikt Weibel who is stepping down at the end of the year.

Trade union officials said the move was an acceptable compromise, but delegates still have to give their approval to the deal.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss Post is a state-owned company with a workforce of about 55,000 making it one of the largest public employers.

The Federal Railways has a workforce of about 28,000. It is a joint-stock company owned by the state.

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