Swiss health workers organize week-long protest demanding pay rise and recruitment

Protests were organized across Switzerland by health workers with the support of trade unions and progressive political groups. The protesters demanded pay rise, bonus, safer working conditions and more recruitment

November 03, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Left parties and feminist groups have also supported the health workers protest

Last week, health workers across Switzerland organized week-long protests demanding a pay rise for caregivers and more resources for the overstretched health sector to fight the fresh spike in COVID-19 cases. The protests started on October 26 and concluded with a mobilization in front of the Swiss parliament in Bern on October 31. The health workers organized the mobilizations with the support of unions, including the Swiss Association of Personnel in Public Services (VPOD-SSP), Independent Unions of Ticino (SIT), Sindicato OCST, Swiss Nurses Association (SBK-ASI) and Syna. Protests were also held in Geneva, Fribourg, Jura, Neuchatel, Vaud, Valais and other places during last week.

Switzerland has been witnessing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. According to reports, many hospitals across the country are overstretched and are finding it difficult to cope with the new spike in infections. October 29 and 30 saw more than 9,000 cases in Switzerland. The total number of active COVID-19 cases stands at 182,303 as of November 3 and 2,465 people have died due to the disease. Swiss medics demanded more resources and recruitment to fight the alarming spike across the country. They also demanded an increase in pay, a COVID-19 work bonus equal to one month’s pay and safer work conditions.

The Swiss Association of Personnel in Public Services (VPOD-SSP) stated that “additional funding is urgently needed to strengthen the public health system, along with upgrading essential professions, increasing staff, and effective training. Health is not a vulgar commodity, enough of the competition logic between hospitals and maximizing profit!”

The left-wing parties in the country, including the Communist Party (Switzerland), Swiss Party of Labor (PST-POP) and Solidarity, have expressed solidarity with the health workers.

PST-POP leadership stated that the nursing staff played an important role during the first wave of COVID-19 this spring and were greatly appreciated for it. But the applause was not enough, it said, adding that justified demands from health workers need to be immediately implemented. 

Solidarity also said that the applause and cheer for the healthcare workers had in no way been translated into concrete salary and professional improvements. Activists of the Communist Party (Switzerland) also joined the mobilizations across the country and extended solidarity to the protesting workers.

The activist group Women’s Strike, Feminist Strike (Greve de femmes, Greve feministe) also extended solidarity to the workers of the health, who are predominantly female, with low wages and difficult work conditions.

A section of people also organized un-authorized protests at places against the restrictions and tried to disrupt the health workers’ protest in Bern on October 31.

Following the new spike in COVID-19 infections, the government re-imposed strict regulations during the last week to contain the spread of the virus.