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Swiss Immigration vote Groups lobby against foreign worker restrictions for seasonal labour

Fruit picking attracts seasonal workers from abroad for short periods


Farmers and actors are lobbying against a clause in a proposed new law to favour domestic workers over foreign recruits in Switzerland. They complain that new regulations could penalise industries that regularly use casual labour.

The proposed new law has been drafted in response to a 2014 referendum that called for restrictions on foreign workers. The vote put Switzerland on a direct collision course with the European Union for threatening the free movement of workers accord. 

The Swiss parliamentexternal link has thrashed out a compromise solution that is acceptable to Brussels, but not to rightwing Swiss political parties. In June, the government sent the draft regulationexternal link out for public consultation.

If adopted, it would force employers to prove that they have done everything to find a Swiss candidate for an open position before allowing a foreigner to fill the post – but only in industries with a national unemployment rate of at least 5%. 

One exception to this 5% jobless rule could be casual work of 14 days or less. The draft law proposes that Swiss applicants should always get first refusal of these posts regardless of the unemployment rate.

This would affect seasonal farm workers, the hotel and building trades and also acting roles. Markus Ritter, President of the Swiss Farmers’ Union external linkcomplained to the Tages-Anzeigerexternal link newspaper that the rule would bog farmers down in “time consuming paperwork”. He also felt that employment offices would be burdened with unnecessary extra expense checking that jobs have been filled according to the new ordinance.

Niggi Ullrich, President of the Association of Independent Theatrical Professionalsexternal link, said that employment agencies lacked enough know-how to decide which actor should fill specific roles. "There are no staff there who know this industry," he said.

"The casting of actors is an artistic decision for the theatre. This is protected by the freedom of artists. A reporting obligation does not make any sense at all,” complained Manuel Tornare, who is on the Board of Trustees at the Grand Théâtre de Genève.external link

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