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Swiss glassworks staff on strike over lay-offs

Vetropack strike action
Vetropack workers say managers are not listening to their concerns KEYSTONE/© KEYSTONE / MARTIAL TREZZINI

Staff at the Vetropack glass-making factory in St-Prex, canton Vaud, are on strike, demanding better terms for people being laid off.

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Since the announcement in mid-May of the closure of the glassworks, the employees, supported by the Unia and Syna unions, have demanded that “real negotiations” be carried out regarding the social plan.

They also demand a freeze on layoffs – around 180 positions must be eliminated – until this social plan has been negotiated and signed. They ultimately demand the maintenance of industrial jobs in St-Prex in the event of takeover by another company.

Believing that management is not responding to these demands, the employees met in an assembly and decided to go on strike late Friday morning. The movement is followed by “a large majority” of employees, notes Nicole Vassalli, head of the Unia Vaud industry sector, when contacted by Keystone-SDA.

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She specifies that the factory is not completely shut down, particularly its furnace, so as not to damage the installations. On the other hand, no more bottles leave the site until management addresses staff concerns, added Vassalli.

Management appeal

She emphasises that if Vetropack has indeed planned a social plan, it is “totally insufficient and unworthy”. Among other grievances, the unions deplore management refusal to engage in “any consultation of staff during the procedure”. She adds that a new meeting with management could take place on Monday. “We want real negotiations, not just discussions,” she says.

Vetropack management reacted Friday afternoon by “urging” employee representatives and unions to resume dialogue “responsibly”.

According to the group’s boss Johann Reiter, quoted in a press release, management has “reaffirmed” its desire to discuss the social plan in preparation. “We therefore do not understand why the unions are now unilaterally supporting a strike which will considerably delay the finalisation of the social plan,” he adds.

According to Vetropack, the strike affects both production and the St-Prex warehouse. The company notes, however, that it has not yet had any consequences on customer supplies, “at least in the days to come.” If the movement were to continue, Vetropack explains that it will look for “a solution” to ensure supply to customers from other factories in the group.

Regarding job cuts, the first dismissal letters should be sent “in the coming days”, Vetropack also announced. Around half of the employment contracts will be terminated in this first phase until August 31. The other positions will be phased out until 2026.

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“The dismantling of machines and installations after stopping production will require some time, which will allow us to employ some employees for longer,” explains the group.

Translated from French by DeepL/mga

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