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Swiss industry wracked by insecurity

The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions has endorsed comments by the head of the Employers' Union that the Swiss economy is in dire straits.

But it has rejected Fritz Blaser's recipe for returning the country to a healthy state.

swissinfo contacted Pietro Cavadini, spokesman for the federation, and asked him for his reaction to Blaser's proposals.

swissinfo: How accurate is Blaser's assessment?

Pietro Cavadini: Fritz Blaser is very critical and with good reason. Conditions for both employees and businesses in Switzerland have not been favourable.

In particular, our federation is against the proposal to reduce social security benefits.

swissinfo: Why?

P.C.: These solutions were put into effect ten years ago, and we are aware of the results. Insurance has suffered a large crisis, Swissair has folded and a number of businesses that represent Switzerland are either struggling to survive or have gone under.

swissinfo: Given these conditions, what solutions do you recommend?

P.C.: It is imperative that we stop aggravating the feeling of insecurity among workers.

For example, when the Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, came out in favour of raising the retirement age to make up for dwindling funds for pensions, people became worried.

As a result, they began spending less, which in turn slowed the economy down.

swissinfo: For the past ten years, economic growth has been slower in Switzerland than in other European countries of a similar size. What is the solution to this?

P.C.: This phenomenon has multiple causes. But I think the main reason for this slowdown is the policy adopted by the Swiss National Bank during the mid 1990s.

swissinfo: Statistics from the OECD also show that Switzerland is less competitive on the international stage than it was ten years ago...

P.C.: This argument is often brought out in such situations. But I think it varies depending on the sector of activity.

There are areas where Switzerland is still a market leader. And as long as the state continues to invest in them, there is no reason Switzerland should fall behind.

On the other hand, it is very difficult to compete in sectors where the workforce is cheaper in other countries, even with efficient machinery.

swissinfo interview: Jean-Didier Revoin (translation: Joanne Shields)


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