Top politicians call for fairer wages in May Day speeches

Ruth Dreifuss called for fairer wages at a May Day rally in Bern Keystone

The president, Moritz Leuenberger, and the interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, have made the case for fairer wages in speeches to mark Labour Day.

This content was published on May 1, 2001 - 11:59

Speaking in Unterseen in canton Bern, Leuenberger said May Day rallies traditionally focused on the need for a just society and equal rights for all citizens. He said that despite the advances made in the past 100 years, these were still goals worth striving towards.

Leuenberger, who is also transport, energy and communications minister, said it was clear that the division between rich and poor was growing.

Reacting to the controversy over the high pay awards granted to top railway managers, Leuenberger said the real scandal was the low incomes paid to some in the private sector, "which have to be augmented by social security payments to constitute a living wage".

The hundreds of thousands of working poor in Switzerland were a blot on the country's political landscape, Leuenberger said.

He said he still dreamed of a society where everyone was equally rewarded for his or her labour.

Leuenberger's comments were echoed in a speech given in Bern by his cabinet colleague, Dreifuss, who said fear and poverty were the enemies of freedom and democracy.

"Fair salaries are the best means of combating increasing poverty in Switzerland," the interior and social affairs minister argued.

"The idea that an increasing number of people in Switzerland are anxious about their means of existence is insupportable," Dreifuss said and called for solidarity with ordinary people.

The defence of the social state was the focus of a speech delivered in Basel by Paul Rechsteiner, the head of the Swiss trade union federation. "The experience of previous years has shown that where a struggle has been waged progress has been made," Rechsteiner said, and urged unions and left-wing parties to work together.

swissinfo with agencies

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