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Minister set to put his stamp on postal row

Postal workers have their backs up over outsourcing Keystone

The Swiss communications minister, Moritz Leuenberger, is to intervene in a labour dispute at Swiss Post that is threatening to develop into a strike.

This content was published on November 21, 2004 - 16:01

The move, revealed on Sunday, comes on the same day a newspaper reported that salaries of postal workers were up to 20 per cent higher than those of similar jobs in private industry.

Leuenberger will next week meet the head of Swiss Post, Ulrich Gygi, and the president of the Communication Union, Christian Levrat, for separate talks.

This will not be an attempt at conciliation but a first hearing, commented André Simonazzi, spokesman for Leuenberger’s ministry, confirming reports in two Sunday newspapers.

Gygi and Levrat are at loggerheads over a collective labour contract they had worked out in June.

Breaking the contract?

The union accuses Swiss Post of breaking the contract by creating independent subsidiaries to get around conditions laid down in it.

Two weeks ago, Levrat threatened a strike during the Christmas holidays, with labour disruption already due in the next few days.

Simonazzi made it clear that Leuenberger’s reaction to the situation was not directly linked with the union ultimatum.

“What is really at stake is the maintenance of public service,” he commented.

In Simonazzi’s view the two social partners ought to be in a position to sort out their dispute by themselves.

But Leuenberger is determined to hear their arguments because of the political nature of the dispute.

The communications minister is also expected to give his views on the conflict next week.

Wage comparisons

In a related development, the ‘SonntagsZeitung’ published details of a study Swiss Post carried out last year on wage comparisons.

They indicate that postal workers in all job categories earn much more than employees in similar jobs in commercial and logistics enterprises.

For example, the driver of a post bus earns an average SFr70,000 a year ($60,324), while he would only receive a salary of SFr55,000 working in the private sector.

“I am not going to comment on concrete figures but it is true that all comparisons show that Swiss Post offers good or even very good working conditions in all areas,” said the company’s head of personnel, Rolf Hasler.

“In view of that, I cannot understand how the unions can talk of wage dumping and threaten strike action,” he added.

Levrat admitted that the high salaries and threatened strike action were difficult to explain.

“It is not a question of the present wage structure but the fact that Swiss Post is increasingly outsourcing and escaping conditions in the collective contract,” he said.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swiss Post, dubbed in Switzerland ‘The Yellow Giant’, ensures that 16 million letters and half a million parcels are delivered every day.
19,000 postal vehicles and 500 rail wagons travel half a million kilometres every day – equivalent to going round the world 12 times.
It has a fleet of 1,954 post buses carry 100 million passengers annually on a network covering 10,387 kilometres.
Swiss Post sells about 500 million postage stamps every year.

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In brief

The head of Swiss Post, Ulrich Gygi, and Communication Union leader Christian Levrat are at loggerheads over a collective contract they worked out in June.

Levrat has threatened strike action during the Christmas period.

He defends the idea of strike action, arguing it will help assure public service is maintained.

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