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Cargo workers continue action over job cuts

Workers at the Bellinzona repair facility are determined to continue the strike Keystone

Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger says the cutbacks at the cargo division of Swiss Federal Railways although unpleasant for workers are inevitable.

This content was published on March 10, 2008 - 18:15

Strikers at the Bellinzona facility on Monday won the support of the regional authorities and the church as they pledged to continue their action in protest at the planned job losses.

The 400 workers at the state-run locomotive repair facility in the southern Ticino region vowed to press on with the industrial action which they began on Friday.

They are protesting against the management plans to axe 126 jobs at the depot.

The cantonal parliament approved a resolution calling on the federal government to reconsider the decision to cut a total of 400 jobs and relocate up to 200 others at sites across the country.

The unions say former politicians, retired railway workers as well as the local community donated money and food for the strikers.

The Catholic bishop of the local diocese also pledged his support.

On Saturday several thousand people took to the streets in the town of Bellinzona to show their solidarity and protest against the job cuts.

Disappointing

However, Transport Minister Leuenberger on Monday reiterated that the planned overhaul at the cargo division was inevitable to ensure the survival of the company.

He described as "disappointing" a series of deficits of the company.

Leuenberger told parliament that the job cuts were unpleasant for those concerned and for the region, but repeated that there will be no lay-offs.

The Bellinzona facility plays a key role for mechanics and metal workers in the southern Swiss region.

Leuenberger added that he would meet a delegation from Ticino for talks later in the week.

Wrong strategy

Roman Rudel, transport expert at Ticino University, has criticised the company for lacking a clear business strategy.

"They don't seem to have considered other options besides the decision to axe jobs," he told swissinfo.

Rudel said the competition on the country's main north-south axis along the Gotthard route is fierce and the company was probably set prices which did not cover the costs.

"The company gave up profitable sectors on the domestic market and took on more than it can chew by getting onto the European market," he said.

The company should have expanded its business on the domestic market instead and developed more flexible services for freight traffic.

Rudel also came out in favour of a partial privatisation of the cargo division.

"The company could win outside expertise for its board. It is ultimately a political question how much more funds the state wants to throw into a black hole."

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss Federal Railways Cargo is Switzerland's leading provider of freight services.

It has a workforce of about 4,400 and generated 12.3 billion net tonne-km of traffic last year.

The lion's share of cargo traffic is transalpine freight on the north-south axis through Switzerland.

The cargo division was launched as a business unit in 2000 and has been plagued with deficits and restructuring.

Last year, the company posted a deficit of SFr190.4 million, as its international subsidiaries in Germany and France suffered major losses.

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