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Swissair staff strike at Geneva airport

Swissair employees staged a strike at Geneva airport last week, and again on Tuesday Keystone Archive

Swissair Group employees have brought Crossair flights at Geneva airport to a standstill during a four hour strike to demand better pay and benefits.

Tuesday’s strike follows a union vote on Monday evening in favour of the strike in Geneva. Staff at the Zurich airport, meanwhile, chose instead to issue Swissair Group with a new ultimatum: The beleaguered company has until November 30 to come up with a revised plan to finance a social programme.

Crossair condemned the strike and said it undermined consumer confidence.

The Swissair workers are fighting for a social plan to protect those who will lose their jobs when a new airline is set up next year. They are also protesting what they consider “wage dumping” in the new airline’s business plan – instituting severe wage cuts.

About 5,000 people at Swissair and its flight-related services lost their employment following the collapse of the national airline. Remaining employees are deeply concerned about prospective cuts in salaries and pensions.

Pay cuts

Crossair pilots are to take a 40 per cent pay cut, said Rémy Pagani, the head of the Public Service trade union’s western Switzerland branch. He said staff were entering a situation where Crossair bosses could pay what they liked.

Aviation mechanics would have to accept an SFr800 to SFr1,000 pay cut to continue working in Geneva.

Pagami warned against a Crossair that turns into “a company like (the low-cost airline) easyJet where there are fewer salary obligations.”

Zurich decision

“We are very disappointed by the attitude of our collegues in Zurich,” said Béatrice Enggist, head of aerial traffic at the Public Service union. She said she regretted the Zurich staff’s decision not to match Geneva’s actions and called on Zurich and Basel airports to follow Geneva’s lead and strike.

Enggist denounced parliament’s debate at the weekend to devise a plan to finance a new airline as a “masquerade”.

Swissport voted against participating in Tuesday morning’s strike in order to “respect the firm’s foreign affiliates and clients”.

The image “of a beautiful and orderly Switzerland with law-abiding citizens has been undermined”, one Swissair employee said in a statement.

The unions are asking for a social plan costing some SFr200 million. On Saturday, both houses of the Swiss parliament voted in favour of a government proposal for a credit package of just over SFr2 billion ($1.2 billion) to bail out collapsed Swissair and invest in a new national airline.

Under a deal reached between the government and the industry last month, the federal, cantonal and local authorities will take a 35 per cent stake in the new airline, based on the regional carrier, Crossair, while private industry will contribute SFr1.9 billion, with 65 per cent of shares.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR