2 – Repeated violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliate in Switzerland is the Schweizerischer Gewerkschaftsbund / Union syndicale suisse (SGB).

Switzerland ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1975 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1999.

In practice

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Switzerland fails to amend its labour legislation in order to prevent anti-union dismissals01-01-2015

Swiss labour law does not provide reinstatement in case of discriminatory dismissal of trade unionists, and the only legal remedy provided is compensation. In the case of unfair and discriminatory dismissal, Swiss law provides up to six months’ wages compensation, although on the average it varies from around one to three months’ wages. All things considered, the compensation due according to Swiss law is very likely to be considered by enterprises as a cost worth to be paid in order to get rid of troublesome individuals, being so low that it has no deterrent effect on discriminatory dismissal. For such reason SGB/USS trade union presented its complaints to the Government asking for an amendment in the law. In January 2011, in response to a trade union request, the Swiss government drafted a bill for a partial review of the Code of Obligations, increasing from six to twelve months’ wages the maximum penalty for anti-union termination of contract. Nevertheless, following attacks by employers, the Government suspended the bill, and Swiss workers have been stuck since more than ten years in this “limbo” of lack of protection against anti-union dismissal.

Gate Gourmet undermines collective bargaining process02-10-2013

Employment relations have been governed through a collective agreement at Gate Gourmet, Geneva Airport since 1997. However, despite improving profits, the company proposed salary and benefit cuts during collective bargaining negotiations in 2013. SSP, the Public Service Workers Union, suggested starting an arbitration procedure to overcome the deadlock during the negotiations. But Gate Gourmet decided to bypass the union and to negotiate individually with the workers, thereby undermining the collective bargaining process. When 86 workers refused to sign the proposed contract, the company decided to give a termination notice to workers with the possibility of rehiring on worse conditions. A strike was call on 14 September 2013 with the participation of 20 workers. On 2 October, six strikers (including three union representatives) were dismissed with immediate effect for participation in a strike action on 28 September at the Gate Gourmet office organised by the Support Committee.

Anti-union discrimination at Spar30-06-2013

Management at Spar in Dättwil only started negotiations with workers after a seven day strike. However, management left the bargaining table immediately after without justification and stopped responding to any demands made by the union UNIA. The union engaged again in a strike to protest against the refusal to bargain resulting in the dismissal of eleven workers who participated in the strike.

Swiss Federal Court ruling19-03-2013

On 19 March 2013, the Swiss Federal Court ruled that the dismissal in 2009 of Daniel Suter (chair of the staff committee at the Tages-Anzeiger daily newspaper) had not been unlawful. Suter was fired in the immediate run-up to key negotiations over a social compensation plan. It is suspected his dismissal was motivated by the critical role he played in drawing up this plan on the staff committee.

Anti-union discrimination at hospital05-02-2013

According to the public health policy of Neuchâtel, a hospital can only receive subventions if it adheres to the sectoral collective agreement “Santé 21”. However, Genolier Swiss Medical Network (GSMN) which has bought the “La Providence” hospital renounced the sectoral collective agreement and made clear that working conditions and salaries will be lowered. At the same time the company claims state subventions. When workers went on strike to protest against these changes 22 workers were dismissed. The Public services Trade Union (SSP-VPOD) submitted a case to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

Sanctions against unfair dismissal still too weak01-03-2011

The reform bill aimed at improving protection against unfair dismissal was rejected by the employers’ organisations. The federal government has not yet decided whether to present it to parliament. Current regulations are not dissuasive enough, enabling employers to continue riding roughshod over trade union rights.
On 1 March, the courts made a final ruling in favour of a woman employee at the clock parts company Composants Techniques Horlogers (CTH) who was dismissed in 2008 for taking part in trade union meetings. The ruling upheld the view that the dismissal was anti-union and that she had been the victim of harassment: “Her hierarchical superior reproached his colleague for not coming to work the previous Saturday, shouting at her, swearing and banging his fist on the table. He immediately transferred her to a smaller, windowless room, where she was told to check and clean the glass on watches that had already been boxed (...). This work involved using toxic products (isopropyl alcohol, acetone and F45) which, given the absence of any ventilation, caused the worker headaches and nausea. Until that time, nobody had been assigned to that task full time. The victim was awarded only six months salary in compensation, completely at odds with the seriousness of the events. The case demonstrates the need to provide for the reinstatement of workers who are unfairly dismissed, as the ILO has requested”.

Protection against trade unionist dismissals: proposals not a sufficient deterrent31-12-2010

The absence of adequate legal protection for unfair dismissal continues to be abused by many employers to get rid of members of staff who are considered to be too disruptive. The Union syndicale suisse (USS) admitted that the government was heading in the right direction by proposing stronger sanctions while stressing the importance of legislation that effectively protects workers’ representatives and also allows for the reinstatement of employees who are unfairly dismissed.

Anti-union redundancies30-11-2009

The Swiss trade union confederation USS reports a number of incidents where trade union representatives were singled out for redundancies. Examples include Ernst Gabathuler at textile machinery producer Karl Mayer AG (Benninger Guss AG before the takeover), who was employed for over 40 years and served as the workers’ representative for many years; two chairmen and four members of personnel commissions at newspapers “Tagsanzeiger” and “Bund”, following the restructuring of the newspapers; and Giuliano Ossola, a trade union leader who was employed for over 40 years in AGIE SA in Losone. Another activist in a chemical company in Romandie lost his job after reporting several violations of the collective agreement. The company, who had earlier dismissed two other members of the enterprise commission, claimed that the workers were dismissed purely for economic reasons. One more trade union leader received formal warnings after he had informed his colleagues of forthcoming lay-offs.

Even though the link between union activities and dismissals is not always sufficiently evident to prove anti-union activities, vocal union representatives are especially vulnerable when companies downsize, and the law gives them no special protection.

Weak dismissal protection to attract investors 30-11-2009

A small canton of Obwalden is trying to attract businesses by promoting “employer-friendly labour law” in the press and on its official website. Easy dismissals and the predominance of individual employment contracts over general agreements are particularly stressed.

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