Minister asks unions to ponder pension reform

Switzerland’s old-age pension scheme has become a “weak link” and must have long-term funding to succeed, the Swiss interior minister told union leaders on Friday.

This content was published on November 5, 2010 - 13:23 and agencies

Speaking before the Swiss Trade Union Federation’s annual meeting, Didier Burkhalter said one of the country’s major strengths was its ability to offer positions to nearly everyone in the economy while maintaining a strong social safety net to catch those who fall through the cracks.

“But no chain is stronger than its weakest link and we must therefore think about the link of the old-age pension scheme itself,” Burkhalter said. “If it softens, everything below it will suffer and the other links, namely the retired, will not hold.”

In March, the Trade Union Federation helped mount a successful campaign at the ballot box to shoot down Burkhalter’s plans for pension reform. Nearly three out of four voters were against the plan, which would have reduced annual payments by changing a formula used to calculate them.

On Friday, Burkhalter stressed that a bigger debate over the reforms would still have to take place to avoid the scheme falling into crippling debt.

The minister said today’s political climate is harsh - all the more reason to maintain a solid social partnership to keep the country from being divided into “different camps, each jealously guarding its interests”. An open, constructive dialogue is the only way to find solutions, he said.

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