Swiss cost of living crisis: Largest union calls for 4.500 franc minimum wage
The Swiss Trade Union Federation (SGB), the largest trade union in the country, has demanded workers in Switzerland be given a minimum wage of 4.500 francs a month, rising to 5.000 a month once employees complete vocational training. They argued that with high inflation, rising energy costs and expected rises in the cost of health insurance, people should be given higher wages to cope with the cost of living crisis.
Full cost of living compensation for Swiss workers demanded by SGB
At a press conference on November 15, the SGB demanded that all employees in Switzerland be given a “full cost of living compensation” and a real increase in salaries. They noted that the last few months have seen the cost of goods and services, from basic health insurance to food, rise dramatically, leading to a significant loss in purchasing power which has started to put significant pressure on lower and middle incomes.
According to SGB chief economist Daniel Lampart, around 500.000 people on full-time work contracts in Switzerland earn less than 4.500 francs a month, with a quarter of all workers with apprenticeship qualifications earning less than 5.000 francs. The SGB argued that real wages for jobs in Switzerland have fallen in the last seven years as a result of high inflation and what it described as “uneven” policies around taxation and social security that benefitted the wealthy.
SGB calls for a 5.000 Swiss franc minimum wage for graduates
Lampart argued that a wage of 5.000 Swiss francs a month is not enough to have a sustainable life in Switzerland, and that those with apprenticeship qualifications should earn the figure from the moment they complete their higher education and begin work. He claimed that companies are currently in “good to very good” financial shape and that a wage increase is long overdue.
Therefore, SGB President Pierre-Yves Maillard demanded that those studying for an apprenticeship in Switzerland be given a minimum wage of 4.500 francs a month, rising to 5.000 a month when they graduate. This would amount to an average wage rise of between 4 and 5 percent in real terms, which he described as "strong but justified." “The value of work must again be adequately recognised in Switzerland,” he told Watson.
Swiss employers say they cannot pay for significant salary increases
In response, the Swiss Employers’ Association (SEA) told Watson that a full cost of living wage rise is not possible in all sectors, despite the healthy profits made by businesses. SEA chief economist Simon Wey said that a 2,2 percent rise was more realistic.
He explained that companies are having to contend with an extreme shortage of workers, supply bottlenecks and the threat of energy shortages, making it difficult to promise wage rises in the long term. Labelling the union’s demands as “illusory” he argued that wages should be agreed upon between employers and employees, not enforced by the government or unions.