Swiss women demand equality and gender justice in massive national strike

The condition of women in Swiss workplaces is substandard compared to its neighboring European states as a wage gap of 8% persists between men and women with equal qualifications.

June 17, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Womens strike switzerland

On June 14, hundreds of thousands of women across Switzerland hit the streets in a national strike, demanding equal pay and zero tolerance of gender-based violence. The strike took place in the context of the 108th session of the International Labor Conference (ILC) scheduled in Geneva from June 10 to 21. The summit will see discussions on international rules to tackle violence and harassment at work. The strike was organized by several women groups and trade unions under the banner of Grève des femmes, Grève féministe (Women’s Strike, Feminist Strike).

The protesters also demanded more investment in the care sector, recognition of the real value of unpaid work by women at home and in the community, as well as effective measures to prevent both psychological and physical harassment. The protesters criticized the government for its lack of efforts in bridging the gender gap in all walks of life.

Marches and associated events were held in more than a hundred places in the country, including Bern, Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Vaduz, Thuns, Zofingen, Schaffhausen, Degersheim, Fribourg, etc.

According to reports, women earn 20% less than men on average. According to the national statistics office, the wage gap between men and women with equal qualifications is 8%. It was only in 1971 that Swiss women got the right to vote and husbands’ approval was needed to work or open a bank account until 1985.

World March of Women said, “Women’s rights are systematically ignored. We are angry and have decided to stop letting ourselves go. We are in the streets today to meet up people to exchange our experiences and our desires.” They also announced that a national event for equal pay will take place on September 22 in Bern.

The Swiss political party Solidarity said, “Around the world, we are witnessing a revival of feminist movements: #metoo, mobilizations for the right to abortion, against gender-based violence, women’s strike. In Switzerland too, sexism, inequality and violence against women persist, although equality has been enshrined in the Federal Constitution since 1981.”

“This strike mobilizes thousands of women throughout the country who have been organizing in regional collectives for months. Among all the demands, we particularly want to highlight those concerning the health of women at work, i.e., the repercussions of the so-called “feminine” occupations on the health of women workers which are too often ignored, neglected and invisible,” it added.

Sonja Crivelli from the Swizz Party of Labor stated on its website, “The Civil Code and the current legislation in the country have produced only small and timid steps for women’s emancipation and the results appear to be rather fragile so far. In other words, they have shown their ineffectiveness. We need an education that radically changes the state of things, an education that starts from early childhood, continues in schools, and passes through all the threads of the community. Women have long struggled to achieve respect and justice, and will continue to struggle until they are free from economic violence, exploitation and precariousness, free to decide their own bodies, their own education.”

The International Trade Union Congress, in a statement, expressed solidarity with the national strike of the Swizz women.

Switzerland’s first national women’s strike was held 28 years ago, in 1991. With the participation of 500,000 people, it is said to be the biggest industrial action in the country’s history till date.