Public transport strike in Geneva blocked by authorities
An attempted strike by public transport workers in Geneva has been blocked, after the case was referred to the Chamber of Collective Labour Relations (CRCT). The local transport union had announced strike action for June 28, after the public transport operator TPG refused to increase salaries in line with the rising cost of living.
Disagreement over pay led to strike announcement
After a breakdown in negotiations last week, the Transport Staff Union officially called for strike action in Geneva. It would have been the first public transport strike in the city since 2018.
Union secretary Aurélie Lelong explained that the decision was made after TPG refused to increase wages in line with the cost of living, amounting to a pay rise of 1,2 percent for all employees on full-time work contracts. The move would have cost TPG 4 million Swiss francs to implement, money the company says it does not have after losing 7 million francs during the COVID pandemic.
In response, the union said that pandemic-related losses do not justify minimal salary rises, especially amid price rises for fuel, food and other crucial goods. After consulting with workers, the union called for a general strike.
In a written statement, TPG said that it was "very surprised” by the announcement and had intended to "continue discussions" with the union over how the matter can be resolved. After an unsuccessful meeting on June 21, it was assumed that only a last-minute agreement would save Genevan residents from the approaching disruption. That was until the cantonal government intervened.
More Swiss unions threaten to strike if talks break down
In a statement on June 22, TPG announced that the pay dispute had been referred to the Genevan CRCT, meaning that no strike action would be allowed on June 28 and negotiations would continue with the chamber's oversight. The chamber intervened once it became clear that both sides could no longer negotiate or communicate with each other effectively.
“We are disappointed that the TPG referred the case to the CRCT," said union spokesperson Oliver Hählen. Union representative Vincent Leggiero admitted that the decision blocks any strike action in the near future, fearing it may "be more difficult to mobilise during the summer."
Negotiations between TPG and the unions are set to continue in the CRCT. While both sides may reach a compromise, Leggiero warned that if no agreement is reached, they will attempt to strike again, this time with the support of other public-sector unions.