Unions attack firm’s strong franc tactics

Unions have criticised a decision by Basel-based biotech firm Lonza to forgo working conventions and extend work hours due to pressures from the strong Swiss franc.

This content was published on July 1, 2011 minutes and agencies

The working week for the 2,500 staff at its Visp plant will be increased from 41 to 43 hours for 18 months.

Production costs at the site in canton Valais are accounted for in francs while sales are tallied in euros or dollars, which under the rising Swiss currency has resulted in significant losses, Lonza said on Thursday.

The group said it was also hurting from the higher cost of raw materials and energy and aggressive pricing by competitors.

Altogether it is estimated to have resulted in a loss of up to SFr70 million ($82.7 million). The longer working hours were seen as an attempt to avoid taking on extra short-term workers. In doing so, Lonza has had to renege on the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The Unia and Syna unions said the move was unacceptable and an affront to personnel and unions. Unia said staff should not have to work longer to ensure the group turns a profit and called for immediate talks on the issue.

The Swiss Employers’ Association demanded compensation and called for a moratorium.

The franc has gained by 25 per cent over the euro and dollar in the past four years.

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