Over 25,000 people took to the streets of Bern on Saturday calling for a four per cent pay increase and an end to the disparity between men's and women's wages.This content was published on September 23, 2006 - 17:50
The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions said the demand is justified in the light of an upswing in Switzerland's economy and recently inflated salaries awarded to "fat cat" bosses.
Executives of several top Swiss companies came under fire earlier this year after receiving generous pay increases far above the average salary hikes.
Saturday's demonstration, under the banner of "4% for all – and more for women", was headed by a phalanx of women demanding "the full wages for the full work".
Studies have shown that women earned on average 20 per less than men ten years after laws were brought in to force an equalisation of pay. Federation president Paul Rechsteiner called this "a dishonour for Switzerland".
Doris Schüepp, general secretary of the public service union, also called for women to be treated on an equal footing to men.
Addressing the rally, Rechsteiner went on to complain about a new type of class warfare and accused Switzerland's bosses of causing oppression from the top downwards.
The demonstration was preceded by a 7,000-strong protest by members of the Swiss Railway and Public Transport Union against the axing of collective contracts by Swiss Federal Railways last year.
The union claimed that the railways now wants to reduce costs by five per cent by imposing worse conditions. It likened this to the "dismantling of public transport".
swissinfo with agencies
The Federation of Trade Unions calculates that real (inflation adjusted) wages grew by only 4% in Switzerland between 1994 and 2003.
By comparison, the group says, Germany's wages have risen by more than double than Switzerland's in the past ten years.
The federation further claims that real wages in Sweden, the US, Britain and the Republic of Ireland have risen on average by 20% or more in the same period.
In June, trade union Travail.Suisse released a study showing that managers' incomes at the 27 leading Swiss companies had risen by 30% in 2005.
The report also claimed that the gap in salary levels between top bosses and shop floor workers had increased. Some executives earned 800 times more than some of their employees, the study claimed.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) calculates that the cost of living in Switzerland is 28% higher than in Germany.
Equal pay for equal work was enshrined in the Swiss constitution in 1981.
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