Staff at TPG in Geneva threaten strike action for the start of 2024
In a statement, the Transfair and SEV unions in the city of Geneva threatened a strike at the local public transport operator TPG for the start of 2024. The unions have argued that workers at the firm are increasingly calling in sick because of pressures caused by ongoing staff shortages.
TPG services in Geneva threatened by strike action
In a statement given to 20 Minuten, the SEV union confirmed that it and Transfair were in the process of submitting a motion to their members, calling for a renewal of strike action at TPG in Geneva. If an agreement is not reached in time and workers vote in favour of action, the strike is expected to occur at the beginning of 2024 and last several days.
The union represents around 1.400 drivers and other staff at TPG, meaning any kind of strike action would see the suspension of a majority of bus and tram services in the city. Indeed, when the two unions last struck in October 2022, authorities in Geneva told residents to stay home as only a “minimum service” could be provided - although it should be kept in mind that Swiss Federal Railway (SBB / CFF) and Léman Express trains would be unaffected by a strike at TPG.
Working conditions at the centre of union demands
Both unions are demanding that TPG workers receive higher pay, beyond the below-inflation-level pay raise of 1 percent offered by TPG during previous negotiations. Transfair is demanding that all workers be given a 2,5 percent raise in 2024, while the SEV wants an even larger pay raise of 3 percent.
However, Transfair vice-president Stéphane Fontaine told 20 Minuten that their main demands revolve around working conditions, which are “much more important” than raising salaries. Of particular concern is the level of absenteeism at TPG, with 9,8 percent of staff being registered as being sick or off work at the end of October this year.
Staff at TPG suffering due to worker shortages, unions argue
Fontaine said that their primary concerns include the extension of public transport services into the night after night buses were scrapped, the lack of reservists to cover absent colleagues, the lack of flexible training for bus drivers and the forced moving of paid leave to compensate for the “huge lack of staff for the coming summer.”
SEV president in charge of TPG negotiations Vincent Leggiero argued that the current staffing issues are “the price of suffering at work”. He called for more staff to be employed to help “let the healthy breath…Otherwise, they are the ones who get sick, it’s a vicious circle. We and management actually have the same goal: to reduce absenteeism. They for money, us for health. Now we need a reaction.”
TPG commits to reforms and further negotiations
For their part, TPG spokesperson François Mutter told 20 Minuten that they reaffirm the “attention TPG pays to the quality of working conditions.” They argued that their salary increase proposal is just 0,1 percent lower than the annual inflation rate quoted by the official consumer price index (1,1 percent),
She also announced that TPG will be making several changes next year, such as employing 120 more drivers, increasing the number of reserve staff by 10 percent and making each employee's working days known at least a year in advance - though these measures have already been declared “insufficient” by the unions.
Mutter concluded that “intensive discussions” continue to be held between TPG and the unions. She added that the company intends to “continue this dialogue” and “rapidly resume negotiations” so that a strike can be averted.
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