The six top managers at the Swiss Federal Railways have defended an expected pay rise that will boost their joint income by nearly SFr1 million this year. They said the increase would bring their salaries more in line with the private sector.
At a press conference in Bern on Tuesday, railway officials revealed that the six most senior executives at the Federal Railways would this year share about SFr2.7 million in earnings. That compares with SFr1.9 million last year, and SFr1.75 million in 1999.
The Federal Railways justified this year's steep increase on account of the change in legal status of the group, from a state run enterprise to a public limited company.
Officials said the rise was needed to attract top executives from the private sector, in order for the railways to increase their competitive edge.
Christian Kräuchi, a railway spokesman, told swissinfo that the salaries being offered to the six top managers are considerably lower than the European average for comparable positions.
"Every taxpayer in Switzerland thinks they own a piece of the Federal Railways, because they're not used to it being in private hands... As soon as they get used to its new status as a private company, salaries will no longer be an issue."
The chief executive of the Federal Railways, Benedikt Weibel, who expects to earn some SFr600,000 this year, said his salary was far lower than those of the 70 top European managers in the transport sector.
The head of the Railways' board of directors, Thierry Lalive d'Epinay, added: "In comparison to that of his international counterparts, Mr Weibel's salary is still 30 per cent lower."
by Anna Nelson and Juliet Linley