One of Switzerland's oldest and most influential bodies will undergo a major transformation over the next 18 months. The Swiss Federation of Commerce and Industry, or Vorort, is to merge with the Society for the Development of the Swiss Economy.This content was published on July 12, 2000 - 08:35
At 130 years old, Vorort is older than any of Switzerland's current political parties and not much younger than the Confederation itself.
It was founded in 1870 to represent commercial and industrial interests to the federal government. However, times have changed and Vorort and the Society for the Development of the Swiss Economy are joining forces to further strengthen their influence.
"The decision for the fusion of the two organisations is based on three arguments," explains Vorort board member, Rudolf Walser, "To gain synergies, to gain strength in the political arena and to facilitate the decision-making process within our own organisations, he says.
The merger negotiations have been continuing for the last 12 months and have not been without problems.
Walser says the process has been far more difficult than similar talks in the commercial sector because Vorort and the Society for the Development of the Swiss Economy both have democratic structures and different cultures.
Indeed, a third prospective partner, the Swiss Employers' Association has refused to join the new organisation. Vorort says it accepts the decision and concedes that it may have been a little heavy-handed in its initial courtship.
"The start of the whole merger process was certainly not ideal," says Walser, "and the smaller Employers' Association feared that it would be lost in the new organisation."
The Employers' Association itself says it feared that the voices of smaller companies might not be heard in the merged group. But it says it's still likely to work closely with the new organisation and the three bodies already share an address in Zurich.
The merger decision by Vorort and the Society for the Development of the Swiss Economy is not the end but the beginning of the process.
"We are in an interim phase," says Walser, "We have created so to speak a holding company and in 15 months or so we hope to have done everything necessary to enter into a new association."
Until then the two organisations will continue to have different structures, although a new name for the merged body will be unveiled at Vorort's annual conference on September 14.
Rudolf Ramsauer, the current head of Vorort, will be in charge of both organisations until the merger is complete.
by Michael Hollingdale