Home » Talks with the EU – Struggle to maintain wage protection – News

Talks with the EU – Struggle to maintain wage protection – News

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Talks with the EU – Struggle to maintain wage protection – News


Brussels remains tough on its position on wage protection. The differences focus on four points in particular.

There are various sticking points in the negotiations with the EU. Central to this is wage protection for foreign workers who work temporarily in Switzerland. They work primarily in industry, manufacturing and traditionally in construction.

The core of the dispute with the EU is about four points:

1. The rules for posting a deposit for companies from the EU when they send their employees to Switzerland should be relaxed.

The deposit is essentially a deposit and can be confiscated in the event of wage dumping. Brussels now wants only repeat offenders to have to pay such a deposit in the future. The unions reject this.

Unions against abolition

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Keystone/Michael Zanghellini

Particularly in the construction industry, such as painters and plasterers, more violations of collective employment agreements were found before the introduction of the deposit than today. “This clearly shows that European companies think twice about what the real wage and working conditions are in Switzerland,” says Unia board member Bruna Campanello. Abolishing deposits would be a step backwards for the unions.

Employers, however, could imagine a weakening of the deposit regime. The EU is stubborn on this point, which is why the Swiss need an alternative, says Roland Müller, director of the employers’ association: “For example, you could increase the penalties in the event of undercutting wages.”

Trade unions, employers and industry associations agree on controls, for example on construction sites. These should be frequent and effective.

2. Service suspension. If a foreign company violates local wage and labor regulations, the cantons can, in addition to fines, ban the offending company from continuing to operate in Switzerland for up to five years. The EU also wants to weaken this regime.

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“Today this is the only instrument for the cantons to really punish erring companies,” emphasizes trade unionist Campanello. Under no circumstances should it be sanded. Employers agree with this. The current regulation has proven itself, so nothing needs to be changed, emphasizes employer association director Müller.

From the perspective of the social partners, the case is clear. The Federal Council is not allowed to make any concessions to Brussels on this point.

Impact on Swiss wages

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The working conditions under which the posted workers from Poland or Germany earn their money are crucial. If wage protection is weakened here, as the EU wants to do in parts, there is a risk of wage dumping. Swiss companies and employees would then face competitive disadvantages.

3. Expense regulations. The EU does not want to oblige countries such as Poland to finance an overnight stay for their employees at Swiss prices. Instead, they would only have to pay expenses at the level that is usual in Poland.

This would make Swiss companies less competitive because the Polish company could offer a better price. Here, the social partners are unanimously defending themselves against the EU regime and are demanding that the Federal Council not adopt this rule.

4. “Non-regression clause”: In doing so, Brussels wants to guarantee Switzerland that local wage protection will not be undercut by court rulings or changes in the law after the contract is signed.

This clause has been clarified in recent weeks and there is hardly any dispute about it. Employers see the clause as future protection to secure wages in Switzerland.

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That sounds good, but it is a false security, says trade unionist Campanello. “This regulation would only come into play after the wage and working conditions as well as the instruments had been weakened beforehand.” Then the clause would no longer be of any importance.

Wanted: common position

Brussels wants the negotiations to be completed by summer 2024. This is also entirely in the interests of the social partners. But the struggle for a common position on wage protection is likely to drag on.

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