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Construction workers stage protests to push wage demands

Thousands of construction workers across Switzerland staged a day of action on Monday to press their demands for higher pay to compensate for rising costs of living.

This content was published on November 22, 1999 - 15:55

Thousands of construction workers across Switzerland staged a day of action on Monday to press their demands for higher pay to compensate for rising costs of living.

A trade union official said the rallies and public protests in several cities and towns were intended to send a clear signal to employers that the unions were serious about their demands.

“This national day of action was organised to support the salary negotiations currently taking place for the year 2000,” said Peter Scola. “(We) hope that with this support from building workers throughout Switzerland, the (wage negotiation result) can be clearly improved.”

More than 8,000 workers followed the unions' call, mostly in western and southern Switzerland. In the capital Berne, however, only a few dozen building workers showed up for a protest rally.

Construction workers are demanding a monthly increase of SFr200 ($129) without an increase in the number of flexible work hours.

"Now that the economy is back on track, workers want to make sure they also get their share of the profits," said union leader Vasco Pedrina.

Employers are offering SFr40 ($25) for all industry workers as well as individual pay raises if workers agree to increase the current 75 flexible work hours to 200 annually.

The protests come on the eve of a new round of wage negotiations between unions and employers.

Wednesday’s negotiations for a new collective framework contract for about 100,000 workers are taking on a degree of urgency as representatives from both sides failed to reach a breakthrough in the previous seven rounds.

Delegates of leading construction companies were scheduled to discuss the increasingly tense negotiations during a two-day meeting in the city of St. Gallen starting on Tuesday.

Employers refused to comment on the union protests.

Labour organisations have rejected employers’ wage offer as ludicrous in light of mounting health insurance costs and rising rents.

From staff and wire reports.

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