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Unions lift opposition to EU labour accord

Vasco Pedrina (left) said the unions would not be lowering their guard Keystone

Trade unions say they will not oppose parliament's decision to open up the Swiss labour market to the ten new European Union member states.

This content was published on December 21, 2004 - 18:26

Union leaders said on Tuesday that they were satisfied with additional measures to prevent wage dumping, which is one of their biggest concerns.

The Federation of Trade Unions had threatened in October to challenge the agreement on the free movement of people unless parliament took action.

But union leaders voted late on Monday night not to launch or support a nationwide ballot against the treaty.

The far-right Swiss Democrats announced last week that they would be asking voters to reject the government’s plans.

Paul Rechsteiner, president of the Federation of Trade Unions, said the additional measures approved by parliament to prevent abuses had met the minimum conditions set out by the unions.

Parliament agreed to appoint 150 inspectors to ensure that Swiss companies did not try to take advantage of cheap foreign labour.

On their guard

But Vasco Pedrina, joint president of Switzerland’s biggest union, Unia, warned that the unions would be staying on their guard.

“The adoption of these accompanying measures by parliament is one thing; their application is another,” he said.

“It's perfectly clear – and this is a great source of concern among our ranks – that up until now the authorities as well as employers’ associations have been dragging their feet.”

Unia is to ask its delegates on January 15 whether they support the decision not to oppose the accord.

The union's Ticino branch came out on Wednesday against extending the labour agreement. Officials said they would be looking to enlist the support of fellow delegates at the January meeting.

Union leaders said they would not actively support the treaty until the cantons and employers had done everything in their power to avoid a drop in salaries and a deterioration in working conditions.

Since the existing accord with the EU on the free movement of people came into effect in 2002, unions have complained regularly that wages are coming under pressure.

They say cantonal authorities across the country have failed to carry out regular and effective checks.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Parliament voted last week to extend an existing agreement on the free movement of people to the ten new EU member states.

Parliamentarians also agreed to a series of measures to prevent wage dumping and a deterioration in working conditions.

Unions say they are no longer opposed to the treaty but add that they will only endorse it if these measures are enforced.

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