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GE takeover Alstom cuts 1,300 jobs in Switzerland

Alstom's Swiss operations are based in canton Aargau

(Keystone)

Following its partial takeover by General Electric (GE), the energy and transport company Alstom will axe 1,300 jobs in Switzerland.

They are among 6,500 positions being slashed across Europe following Alstom’s sale of its power generation and grid businesses to GE in November of last year. Alstom states on its website that it “is now a global player fully focused on transport”. It currently employs 5,500 people in Switzerland. 

The positions being lost in Switzerland will affect workers at its facilities at five locations in canton Aargau. Some of the operations currently taking place there will be moved to France. However, Alstom indicates that it is not planning to close any of its Swiss facilities amid the restructuring. 

The Syna union released a statement following the announcement of the layoffs in which it condemned the Swiss government for not taking enough action to keep Alstom jobs in the country. The union pointed out that Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann had held talks with Alstom leadership and declared at the time that no jobs would be lost as a result of GE's takeover. 

Schneider-Ammann said on Wednesday that he had not expected the layoffs at the time but that market conditions had changed since. Therefore, he said "a certain amount of understanding" is needed for Alstom's decision.

He also expressed hopes that Alstom and GE continue to recognise Switzerland's competitive advantage in the business world, with the most open labour market and the best job training.

Also on Wednesday, the Swiss government announced that it would extend from 12 to 18 months the amount of time during which it would give aid to employees who had their working hours cut. The aid covers up to 80% of earnings lost.

The European Union Commission first approved the €12 billion (CHF13 billion) deal between Alstom and GE with conditions in September 2015. In order for the deal to go through, GE was made to sell a part of Alstom’s gas turbine business to the Italian company Ansaldo Energia, and a corresponding 420 positions at Alstom were transferred to that company. However, Alstom’s location in Baden, Switzerland remains responsible for turbine maintenance.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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