Thousands took to the streets in Switzerland on Monday to mark International Workers’ Day. Despite the cold and wet weather, there were more than 50 parades and demonstrations, as well as a range of banners and motivations.
Led by trade unionists and politicians, and rallying around slogans harking to issues of equality and justice for the future, thousands of demonstrators marched in 50 Swiss towns and cities on Monday. May 1 is not a federal holiday, but it is officially observed in eight Swiss cantons.
The largest was in Zurich, where 12,000 people set out from Helvetiaplatz. The parade went ahead calmly and without major incident, although some small disturbances were reported, including graffiti sprayed on buildings in the old town. Some paint was also thrown at the Turkish embassy.
Some 2,000 took to the streets in Basel, several hundred in Bern and in Lausanne, as many as 500 in Bellinzona and 300 in Biel, according to the Swiss News Agency.
Controversial pension reforms
Another 2,000 people marched in Geneva, where unions and left-wing parties led an overarching theme of opposition to the 2020 pension reform plans.
Taking advantage of the occasion to sign a petition against the reform, signatories said that the plans to raise women’s retirement age to 65 and to raise salary deductions were simply about making savings “at the expense of and to the detriment of women”.
Meanwhile, the driver of the reform, Interior Minister Alain Berset, was across the mountains in Interlaken defending his project. “It is a good overall package,” he said, “guaranteeing payment levels and bringing essential progress.” He noted that part-time workers would be better safeguarded under the new system.
Looking ahead to the vote on the reform on September 24, he warned that a rejection of the reform would lead to unsustainable deficits for the pension system: based on current trends, no payments could even be made by 2030.
Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga travelled to Sion, where she visited a building site to discuss working conditions with the employees, who came from a range of nations.
swissinfo.ch with agencies/dos