Unions call for raises as the economy recovers 

The construction industry has come through the crisis largely unscathed. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Swiss trade unions are demanding an increase of wages in 2022 across sectors, with bigger boosts for workers in sectors that helped weather the pandemic and are driving economic recovery. 

This content was published on August 12, 2021 - 12:21

The trade union umbrella organisation Travail Suisse and the Society of Commercial Employees on Thursday called for raises of up to 1.75% in some sectors and a general increase for low-pay workers. 

“A general cost-of-living adjustment for all employees is necessary to maintain purchasing power and support private consumption,” said Gabriel Fischer of Travail Suisse. Wage increases are therefore also important in order to be able to overcome the crisis more quickly, he said. 

Switzerland’s economy is believed to be on track for a “vigorous recovery” this year, with the GDP growth forecast recently upgraded to 3.6%. 

Workers adapted to Covid-19 

Such a positive economic outlook, the unions noted, would be impossible without workers who showed great ability to adapt to all the restrictions arising from the Covid-19 health crisis. 

They would like to see salaries rise by 1.75% in banking, insurance, information and communication technologies (ICT), pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. They called for smaller raises of up to 1% for air transport and public administration. Recommended raises in other sectors – including health and education – fall in the middle.  

In 2020, banks in particular, as well as the insurance and ICT sectors, made profits despite the crisis, while the low-wage sectors suffered from declining sales and missing orders. Special attention must be given to these sectors so that the pay gap does not widen further, unions said. 

Boost wages for health workers 

The unions also highlighted the need to boost wages in the healthcare sector, which bore the brunt of the pandemic amid a shortage of skilled workers, and the retail sector, where salaries have been chronically low for years.  

“In these industries, wage increases of 3-4% are mandatory,” argued Mathias Regotz of Syna in a joint statement.  

The worst scenarios for the labour market have not materialised. However, unemployment is still around 35% higher than before the crisis. In addition, many employees have had to forgo income due to short-time work. And rising inflation is jeopardising their purchasing power. 

Monitor gender equality 

Equal pay for equal work was a focal point with regards to women’s wages. The revised Gender Equality Act requires companies with more than 100 employees to conduct a wage-equality analysis. However, the unions note, this is not monitored.  

Travail Suisse and its affiliated associations have created a platform to ensure greater transparency. They urged all companies to use the platform to prove that they comply with the requirements of the Equal Pay Act. 

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