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Swiss unions demand bigger salaries for all

The unions want salaries to reflect the booming economy imagepoint

Trade unions in Switzerland have called for general salary increases of between three and four per cent next year against a background of a thriving economy.

This content was published on August 31, 2007 - 21:46

At a news conference in Bern on Friday, they also demanded an extra one per cent on top of that for women.

Their call came as the Federal Statistics Office said the economy grew at 3.2 per cent last year, an upwards revision from 2.7 per cent before.

"The economic situation, whether regarding exports or the domestic market, is excellent," commented the president of the Swiss Trade Union Federation, Paul Rechsteiner.

The federation's chief economist, Daniel Lampart, said the chances of the economy maintaining its growth in 2008 were good, despite the current turbulences on the financial markets. He forecast growth of two per cent or more.

Justifying its salary demands, the federation argued that only managers and shareholders had so far benefited from the Swiss economy' performance.

Across the board

"The important thing is that the increases are across the board," Rechsteiner said, noting that the vast majority of wage earners had been tricked when "the bosses fixed salaries as they thought fit".

The unions also want to take advantage of the economic situation to try to iron out the salary inequalities between men and women.

Women still earn 20 per cent less than their male counterparts, according to Natalie Imboden of Unia, Switzerland's largest trade union.

To advance the cause of salary equality, the federation is calling on all companies with more than 1,000 employees to examine their wages with the government's salary test called Logib.

Imboden said test results would help companies come up with a plan of action.

Increases

Concretely Unia is going to ask for increases of three to four-an-a-half per cent for export sectors, such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals and engineering.

In the services sector, it is demanding a general increase of SFr150 ($124.8) a month in the retail sector and SFr200 in the road transport branch.

The unions' demands came as Switzerland revised up its economic growth rate for 2006 to 3.2 per cent from 2.7 per cent.

Banks and other financial institutions were able to profit strongly from financial growth for the third consecutive year, which had a positive impact on their commission income, the Federal Statistics Office said in a statement.

Even without the revision, 2006 had already shown the country's fastest growth pace in six years. In 2000, annual GDP growth was 3.6 per cent.

Credit Suisse chief economist Alois Bischofberger said it was not out of place to talk of a boom, while economist Hanspetzer Hausheer at rival UBS said there was reason to be confident for next year.

He added that the fact that inflation was low was also a positive sign.

In a reaction to the unions' demands, the director of the Swiss Employers' Association, Thomas Daum, said there could be salary increases of three per cent in some cases but a general increase of four per cent was not realistic.

swissinfo with agencies

Salaries in Switzerland

Women's salaries have increased more than those of men in recent years but they are still lower in comparison.

On average, women earn 20% less. The average difference is SFr1,172 (the monthly average salary is SFr5,953 for a man and SFr4,781 for a woman).

There are major differences in all branches when it comes to age, education, experience and position in a company.

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Swiss inflation

Swiss inflation fell 0.1% in August compared with July, causing the annual inflation rate to fall to 0.4% from 0.7%.

The drop was largely due to lower prices for petrol and oil products, the Federal Statistics Office said.

The price level for domestic goods was flat compared with the previous month, while it was 0.4% lower for imported goods, the Office said in a statement.

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