Parliament has agreed a package of measures to stop abuses of the labour law by companies from the European Union, in particular by service providers undercutting salary levels or violating other terms of collective work agreements.
The Senate and the House of Representatives also came out in favour of imposing financial sanctions on so-called fake self-employed workers. Firms that cheat could also find themselves excluded from markets for up to five years and face fines of up to SFr40,000 ($41,500).
There was broad agreement that it was urgent to close legal loopholes, tightening rules to avoid fueling opposition against a common labour market between the 27-nation EU and Switzerland.
Peter Föhn, senator for the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, said Switzerland was rife with fake self-employed workers who in reality are employed by a foreign company trying to dodge labour regulations.
Other speakers cautioned that it was not enough to extend the list of sanctions against perpetrators, but ensure that the measures are applied to the letter.
Paul Rechsteiner, senator for the centre-left Social Democratic Party and president of the Trade Union Federation, called for the introduction of the joint and several liability for Swiss companies which use subcontractors notably from eastern Europe.
This would mean a Swiss firm could be liable for the actions of their foreign subcontractors.
Parliament rejected such a proposal, but could reconsider once the government publishes a report on ways to combat legal abuses.
Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann pledged to submit detailed options in the next few weeks.
Trade unionists are said to be willing to accept joint and several responsibility limited to certain sectors, while a senior member of the employers association has dismissed the proposal as unnecessary.
A report to mark the tenth anniversary of the launch of the common labour market with the EU acknowledged that there are abuses of the Swiss labour law and pressure on salary levels particularly for low-skilled workers.
Amid criticism by the rightwing over increased immigration rates over the past few years, the government re-introduced in May temporary labour quotas for eight EU member countries, a move that prompted international condemnation.
Non-EU member Switzerland in 2002 gradually introduced the so called free movement of people for EU citizens. It was later extended to the enlarged 27-nation bloc.
The labour accord with 15 EU as well as three Efta member states took effect in 2002 following Swiss voters’ approval in a nationwide vote.
It is considered a key bilateral accord for non-EU member Switzerland with the union.
The treaty was extended to ten new EU member states two years later, gradually introducing free access to each other’s labour markets.
In 2009 the accord was extended to an additional two new EU member countries in eastern Europe following another nationwide ballot.
Under the accord, Switzerland and all EU and Efta countries benefit from unlimited access to each other’s labour markets by 2016.
However, the Swiss government decided to re-introduce labour quotas for eight eastern European countries for at least 12 months, causing international protests and criticism by the
European parliament.end of infobox
swissinfo.ch and agencies