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Swiss employers urged to show social responsibility

Switzerland’s major employers’ organisation on Thursday expressed confidence about growth prospects for the economy but, in an unusual statement, also called on captains of industry to be aware of their social responsibilities.

This content was published on December 2, 1999 - 11:26

Switzerland’s major employers’ organisation on Thursday expressed confidence about growth prospects for the economy but, in an unusual statement, also called on captains of industry to be aware of their social responsibilities.

The Federation of Commerce and Industry, known as "Vorort," said that restructuring measures, such as job cuts or factory closures, should be implemented in a sensitive way. This should include generous financial compensation and support for re-training.

“Market forces and competition will only be accepted by Swiss society if business leaders can show people that they have a social conscience,” the federation said.

It warned that the Swiss economy could ultimately be the victim if business leaders should fail to recognise their social responsbilities.

“Ultimately, it is up to Swiss voters to decide just how business-friendly they want Swiss regulations to be,” the federation cautioned.

Observers say the federation’s statement is rather unusual and appears to be directly linked to an announcement last month by German ADtranz rail technology group that it would close its plants in the Swiss towns of Oerlikon and Pratteln, at a cost of 710 jobs.

The measure, revealed to employers at extremely short notice, prompted outrage in Switzerland. The government accused the company of opportunism and unions tried to step up pressure on the German concern.

The company said the redundancies were part of a necessary restructuring programme to cut costs and boost profitability.

Despite the ADtranz announcement and another 250 job cuts announced by shoemaker Bally two days ago, the Federation of Commerce and Industry remains confident that the Swiss economy will continue its upswing and grow by up to 2.2 percent next year.

The driving force behind the recovery are Swiss exports and business leaders say they expect that sector to pick up even more in light of a revitalised global economy.

From staff and wire reports.

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