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Wage dispute in construction industry close to settlement

After six months of warning strikes and street protests by construction industry workers, the threat of an all-out strike appears to have been averted after employers and union representatives reached agreement on a new general contract.

This content was published on December 21, 1999 - 12:39

After six months of warning strikes and street protests by construction industry workers, the threat of an all-out strike appears to have been averted after employers and union representatives reached agreement on a new general contract.

Members of the two major construction industry unions GBI and Syna are expected to pass their verdict by Thursday, following 12 rounds of tough negotiations. The unions have threatened to unilaterally cancel the existing general contract as of March next year.

The draft agreement for about 100,000 workers was reached on Monday, and the first details were released on Tuesday.

The agreement says that workers will receive a monthly pay increase of SFr100 ($639) from April 1, 2000. Workers will also get a one-time bonus payment of SFr300 ($190) in the second half of next year.

All sides said they had made concessions and were confident the compromise would be agreed.

The unions originally demanded a monthly increase of SFr200 ($127) for all workers, but employers were only willing to settle for SFr40 ($25) plus an additional 1 percent based on performance.

Further points of disagreement were employer demands for 200 “flexible work hours” per year and the implementation date for the pay increase.

Construction workers have been demanding higher salaries for months, saying the industry has recovered and workers should reap some benefit of the improved economic situation.

Last month, more than 8,000 workers across Switzerland staged a day of action, saying the want higher salaries to compensate for the rising cost of living.

Employers described the demands as “irresponsible” and said there was little room to manoeuvre given the economic situation faced by the industry.

From staff and wire reports.

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