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Unia defies critics and claims success

Co-President Pedrina takes stock after 12 months

(Keystone)

Switzerland's largest single trade union says it has successfully countered the policies of the government and demands of business leaders.

It adds that membership figures have remained stable following the merger of four unions to create Unia a year ago.

Co-president Renzo Ambrosetti said on Thursday that the move had paid off for the trade unions and proved that critics of the merger were wrong.

He told a news conference in Bern that Unia had even won considerably more members in the service sector, but had posted a loss of SFr9 million ($6.9 million) as a result of extra costs resulting from the merger.

The union claims to have about 200,000 members from the construction and engineering industries as well as employees in the retail and catering sectors.

Campaigns

Co-president Vasco Pedrina said Unia negotiated some 500 collective work contracts in 80 different sectors of the economy, representing a total of one million employees in Switzerland.

But Pedrina admitted that a dispute with the country's largest retail chain, Migros, over collective labour contracts had not been resolved.

On the political stage Unia considers its fight against wage dumping and an easing of regulations on Sunday trading as successes.

It said the Trades Union Federation – of which Unia is a member - would hand in the necessary signatures next month to force the introduction of a flexible retirement age in a nationwide vote.

The union also wants to make equal wages for men and women and salary increases the focus of its campaign in 2006.

Limited effect

Switzerland's main employers organisations said the existence of Unia had had limited effect on labour relations.

Peter Hasler, director of the Swiss Employers' Association said concerns about an increasing number of strikes and other protests had been unfounded.

The Master Builders' Association commented the merger could have even tamed some militant union chapters.

The umbrella organisation of the engineering industry, Swissmem, said Unia had introduced a more confrontational style in negotiations in the sector.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Unia trade union was founded in October 2004.
It was formed from a merger of four other trade unions from the construction, engineering, retail and catering sectors.
It has about 200,000 registered members, and has a staff of 1,000.
Unia says it represent about one million employees in 80 different branches.
It is also the country's largest unemployment insurer.

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