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New labour law brings end to years of wrangling

Employee flexibility should be rewarded with better terms under the new labour laws Keystone

A new labour law came into force on Tuesday after years of tough wrangling. The government is touting it as the best compromise that could have been achieved between employers and unions.

The new labour law being seen as a typical Swiss compromise, on the face of it achieving a balance between the demands of the employers for more flexibility in working hours and those of the unions for better worker protection.

The new regulations put women on an equal footing with men, allowing them to work night shifts. There is better protection for workers, particularly pregnant women, and between the hours of 2000 and 0600, work will be compensated by an added 10 per cent rest time.

Announcing the new law in May, the economics ministry said that it would neither fully satisfy the demands of the employers concerning flexibility, nor those of employees concerning measures of protection.

However, it felt that a balance between the opposing interests had on the whole been achieved.

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, said the search for a consensus had been difficult and long.

“One cannot give satisfaction to both camps. But the differences of opinion have been kept to a minimum,” he said.

Commenting on the new law, the spokesman for the Swiss Trades Union Federation, Pietro Cavadini, underlined that neither unions nor employers could feel totally happy.

“We’re not satisfied with the law because we would have liked more protection mechanisms, and I feel the employers aren’t happy because they would have liked more deregulation,” he said.

“The disadvantage of the law is that there’s no answer to such issues as increased stress and a reduction of the quality of life because of more flexible working times. There is also the danger that a work-free Sunday will be deregulated and we would naturally not be happy about that,” he added.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR