Construction workers protest in Switzerland for rights and dignity

Construction workers across Switzerland are outraged at the work schedules and have been calling for a new contract which includes better wages, a fixed time schedule, and safer work conditions

October 19, 2022 by Muhammed Shabeer
From the mobilization in Bellinzona, Ticino (image via Unia)

On October 17, Monday, construction workers marched in the Swiss town of Bellinzona, protesting the apathy of employers and the state towards the pressing needs of the workers in the sector. More than 2500 people participated in the march called by the trade union Unia Ticino. Protesters denounced the attack on the rights of workers. More protests are planned for November 1 and November 7-8 in other cities. Progressive political parties including the Swiss Party of Labor and the Communist Party have expressed support and solidarity to the protesting workers. 

According to reports, the workers in the construction sector are unhappy over overtime and working in precarious weather conditions. The existing national agreement (CN) of the main construction sector, which dictates the working conditions of more than 80,000 workers, will expire at the end of this year. The workers and the unions have demanded provisions for safe work conditions and a fixed time schedule in the new contract. Workers have also demanded a wage hike on par with soaring inflation and the rising cost of living. The unions have said that the “Swiss Society of Entrepreneurs wants to abolish entirely the calendar of working hours that allows the planning of working time.”

On June 25, more than 15,000 people marched in Zurich in a protest called by construction workers and trade unions, expressing their opposition to work schedules dictated by the construction bosses and calling for a new contract which includes better wages, a fixed time schedule, and safer work conditions.

Dario Cadenazzi, head of Unia Ticino for the sector and participant at the national negotiations told online portal Area that “Wage increases, clear rules in the event of bad weather, shorter working days, greater protection for older construction workers, and fully paid travel time are the five essential demands brought to the negotiating table with the Swiss Society of Building Contractors (SSIC). These are proposals for improvement that are ignored by the bosses, without ever deigning to enter into the merits.”

On October 19, Alexander Eniline, from the leadership of the Swiss Party of Labor told Peoples Dispatch that “the cost of living is dramatically increasing in Switzerland, less than in most of other European countries, but still enough to be unbearable for people with low incomes: inflation of about 3%, healthcare insurance between 6% and 9,9%, electricity about 27%, housing…everything grows, except the incomes.

“The causes are complex: war in Ukraine, global economic crisis, shortages in natural resources, purely speculative phenomena…The Swiss government wants to do nothing…parliament adopted ridiculously insufficient measures. The Swiss Party of Labor fights for the indexations of the wages, pensions and social measures, for control on prices and a reform of the healthcare system,” added Alexander Eniline.

On October 20, Stefano Araujo, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Switzerland), told Peoples Dispatch that “in Switzerland, the cost of living is rising and the energy crisis is beginning to be felt. Unfortunately, our government has decided to violate traditional Swiss neutrality and fully submit to NATO’s Atlantic interests by adopting EU sanctions against Russia, which are also causing the actual inflationary dynamic in Switzerland. Furthermore, our Federal Council does not want to promote measures to help the poor and the working class, saying that our country is rich. Yes, rich for a small elite, but not for the majority of the people! Thus, as Communist Party (Switzerland) we are demanding concrete measures to fight the inflation and the end of the federal sanctions against Russia.”