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Watchmakers sign new agreement

A minimum wage for watchmakers is to be introduced in 2004 Keystone

Swiss watchmakers can now demand a minimum wage - though not fewer hours - under a new agreement signed on Tuesday in La Chaux de Fonds.

Switzerland’s largest union, the Watch and Metal Workers Union (FTMH), and the industry’s main employers’ group, the National Watchmakers Association, concluded the agreement after 10 months of negotiation.

The text of the new agreement, the twelfth of its kind since 1937, contains clauses that effectively deter salary increases.

The agreement is valid for the next five years and will affect some 31,000 members of the watch industry and around 400 companies.

The FTMH agreed to the new convention only after two of its three most important demands were accepted: the introduction of a minimum wage in 2004 and a training period of three days per year. As part of the bargain, watch and clock makers cannot expect reduced hours of work.

A syndicate member who signed the agreement, Jean-Claude Renwald, said he regretted not having obtained the reduction in hours despite all the other improvements, including the possibility of an early retirement package beginning in 2004.

Allowances for long-term employees

The new benefit will be restricted to employees who have worked a minimum of 10 years in the watch industry. They can then expect up to SFr18,000 in allowances.

The minimum wage for watchmakers is to coincide with the launch of new measures allowing the free movement of workers in two years’ time.

Employers can expect greater flexibility under the new agreement with respect to wages and subsidizing the costs of employee training. Workers can expect increased benefits.

Among the benefits are the increased contribution by employers to health insurance costs, more old age benefits, and a longer maternity leave of 16 weeks.

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