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Wage increases in 2009 "acceptable"

A trade union umbrella group, Travail Suisse, has described next year's salary levels of between two and four cent as "modest" to "satisfactory".

However, the organisation said in a statement on Monday that the financial crisis had made this year's talks more difficult than usual.

Travail Suisse said if an inflation rate of 1.4 per cent were taken into account, the rise in real terms would be 0.6 to 2.4 per cent.

The organisation said this would support private consumption and would provide a soft landing for the weakening Swiss economy.

In a related development, Travail Suisse is recommending that people support an extension of a key labour agreement with the European Union to new EU members Romania and Bulgaria in a February vote.

A Travail Suisse spokeswoman said rejection of the extension of the treaty on the free movement of people would jeopardise bilateral agreements that non-EU member Switzerland has with Brussels.

She commented that the agreements and their accompanying measures helped protect workers from wage dumping.