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Unions demand higher salaries

Trades Union secretary, Serge Gaillard, said business could afford the pay increases Keystone

Switzerland may be enjoying an economic upturn, but employees have yet to feel the benefits, according to the Swiss Trades Union Federation. It is calling for a 3.5 per cent pay increase to reflect the improved economic situation.

Addressing a news conference in Berne on Wednesday, the federation secretary, Serge Gaillard, said the increase was needed to take account of inflation, estimated at two per cent this year. In addition, the federation is demanding a real salary increase of 1.5 per cent.

Gaillard said the economic situation was such that all branches could afford the inflationary increase.

He told the news conference that despite economic growth, real incomes had increased by an average of only 0.2 per cent in 1998 and 1999, and could even decrease in 2000. The figures are backed up by the Federal Office for Statistics.

Gaillard said the level of worker productivity this year was expected to grow by one per cent, but would vary from sector to sector. For this reason, employees’ associations representing different branches of industry would issue their own demands for salary increases.

For its part, the Swiss Employers’ Association says it is prepared to increase salaries, but rejects the idea of a standard across-the-board rise. Instead it is arguing for sector-by-sector wage negotiations.

Peter Hasler, the association director, acknowledged that the economic climate had improved substantially in the past two years, and said it was now time to reward employees after the difficulties experienced in the 1990s.

Hasler forecast that inflation, which reached two per cent in July, would rise again before the end of the year.

He said another factor which favoured an increase in salaries was the shortage of labour in some sectors.

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