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Jobless concerns Union calls for protection for older Swiss workers

Activist group 50plus protest over aging workers losing their jobs outside the the Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) HQ in Bern in April 2015


Urgent measures are needed to tackle rising unemployment in Switzerland, in particular among ageing workers, a leading Swiss union warns. It wants a new Swiss franc-euro exchange rate peg in place to help save jobs.

According to Unia president Paul Rechsteiner, the Swiss National Bank’s (SNB) decision in January 2015 to remove the CHF1.20 ($1.19)  per euro peg has led to a steady increase in unemployment in Switzerland – against the trend in the rest of Europe. The exchange rate now stands at CHF1.08 per euro. 

The union told reporters gathered at a media briefing in Bern on Tuesday that it expects the jobless rate to rise from 3.4% in November 2015 to 3.6% in 2016.

In view of the gloomy economic outlook for 2016 – gross domestic product growth of 1-1.5% - the union wants the SNB to introduce a new exchange rate control to ensure the franc remains at a level of CHF1.30 to the euro. 

To help tackle unemployment, Unia says employers should be forced to publish vacant positions in regional job agencies. Ageing workers should also be better protected to ensure they do not lose their jobs, either through collective wage agreements or by a system of early retirement. It also called on the federal authorities to improve accompanying measures to prevent wage dumping and unfair competition.

Economy worries 

Business leaders are worried that the Swiss economy may continue to struggle in 2016 and lay off staff because of the strong Swiss franc and other factors.

Heinz Karrer, president of the Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse), told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper last Sunday that major firms as well as small- and medium-sized entreprises could cut thousands of jobs in Switzerland and transfer them abroad.

He said the country’s export and tourism industry were likely to suffer most from the strong Swiss currency.

Switzerland has managed to avoid a recession but growth has slowed and consumer prices continue to fall slowly because of the SNB’s decision to drop its cap. It is estimated that at least 9,000 jobs were cut in 2015.

The 2016 Retail Outlook report published by Credit Suisse on Tuesday pointed out that 2015 had been “an exceptionally difficult year for the retail sector”, with Credit Suisse’s economists only expecting a slight easing in 2016, with marginal growth of 0.3% in nominal retail sales. People are still likely to do as much “shopping tourism” abroad as they did in 2015, they predicted.

The business sector is also concerned about political uncertainty over a decision by voters two years ago to curb the immigration of people from the European Union, Switzerland’s main trading partner. Negotiations with the EU on this issue are ongoing.

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