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Union echoes call for general wage increase

Top Swiss bosses earn up to 800 times more than some of their employees

(Keystone)

The current economic upswing should benefit ordinary workers and not just senior executives, a Swiss union federation has demanded.

Travail.Suisse has called for a general salary increase of up to three per cent for 2007. It also wants to try to reverse the sizeable wage differences between top managers and employees.

The call, at a news conference in Bern on Thursday, follows a similar demand from the Swiss Trade Union Federation in June.

"The Swiss economy is thriving," noted Suzanne Blank, head of economic policy at Travail.Suisse.

In June the government increased its economic growth forecast for 2006 from two per cent to 2.7 per cent. According to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, inflation is expected to hover at 1.2 per cent while the unemployment rate could drop slightly to 3.3 per cent this year.

But with companies again posting records profits over the past year and order books full for 2006, management have been the only ones who have reaped any benefit, Travail.Suisse argued.

While average executive pay rises were between ten and 20 per cent last year, the real value of employees' pay packets had fallen on average by 0.2 per cent.

The federation said this was taking place against a background of increased pressure on employees who had to put in more overtime.

Travail.Suisse insists that pay differences between the highest and lowest salaries should be reduced.

It is calling for companies to favour a pay rise across the entire workforce rather than individual increases.

Echo

In June the Swiss Trade Union Federation called for a general four per cent salary increase in 2007 to ensure that everyone profited from Switzerland's improving economy, and to even out differences between pay packets.

In a statement it pointed out that while shareholders, directors and, to a lesser extent, top managers had been enjoying the fruits of the economic upturn over the past two years, low- and medium-level salaries had barely budged during the past 15 years.

The Swiss Employers' Association responded at the time by saying the requested increase was too high and hard to apply across the board.

In June Travail.Suisse also published a study that showed managers' incomes increased by 30 per cent in 2005.

The study revealed that the difference between top and bottom pay packets had increased last year, with senior management earning 800 times more than some of their employees.

It accused top managers of a "self-serving" mentality and described pay levels and differences as "beyond belief".

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Founded in 1880, the Swiss Trade Union Federation is the largest union umbrella organisation. It includes 16 unions representing about 380,000 members.

Travail.Suisse includes 13 unions representing about 160,000 members.

The Swiss Trade Union Federation has traditionally been close to socialism, while Travail.Suisse comprises unions that have a Christian leaning.

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Key facts

GDP forecast 2006
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco): 2.7%
Swiss National Bank: 2.5%
UBS: 3%
Credit Suisse: 2.8%
Swiss Institute for Business Cycle Research (KOF): 2.1%
BAK Basel Economics: 2.7%
IMF: 2.2%
OECD: 1.75%

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