For many employees, the coronavirus crisis has had deleterious effects. And the future is not rosy, believes the Swiss Trade Union (USS). The economic and social situation is certainly less bad in Switzerland compared to other countries. The measures taken have made it possible to avoid the most serious social damage. “But the situation is not acceptable for all that,” said USS President Pierre-Yves Maillard at a press conference on Tuesday.
Unemployment and underemployment are on the rise, notes the USS. Closures and other restrictions blew up precarious jobs and income gaps widened. Minimum standards in terms of wages and working conditions are often bypassed downwards. The outlook for the coming months is also worrying. No significant recovery is in sight in the labor market. Even after the second wave of the pandemic, an extremely high number of people with jobs are still out of work.
It is unacceptable that the economic cost of the crisis is on the lowest wages
Aid related to the pandemic must be maintained despite the openings. This would be to convert them into a recovery plan in a number of areas, such as culture or hotels, suggests Pierre-Yves Maillard.
A decrease in income of 300 francs
The youngest and oldest employees are more affected than the average. Many workers aged 15 to 24 have disappeared from the labor market and their participation rate has fallen, noted Daniel Lampart, first secretary of the USS.
As often, it is low-income workers who are most affected by the effects of the pandemic. With partial unemployment and unemployment itself, the drop in income is sorely felt. “It is unacceptable that the economic cost of the crisis is on the lowest wages”, criticized Pierre-Yves Maillard. According to an estimate by the USS, people in the lowest income groups (up to 4,000 gross francs per month) have around 300 francs per month less income.
At the same time, the partial shutdowns of the economy have encouraged the proliferation of precarious jobs. With the boom in home deliveries by courier services, minimum standards of working conditions are too often bypassed.
“Partial unemployment must be compensated at 100%”
People who were able to continue working despite the semi-confinement often had to accept other types of degradation of their conditions, for example in sales, for the processing of online orders, underlines Vania Alleva, president of Unia.
“The pressure is enormous for employees to accept this erosion without saying anything. Because in the end, people on short-time work are even worse off. This is why it is necessary that partial unemployment is compensated at 100% for wages up to 5,000 francs and that collective labor agreements (CCT) are extended, ”she adds.
Today, more than 550,000 employees depend on unemployment insurance in Switzerland, 450,000 more than at the start of 2020, Pierre-Yves Maillard recalled. They are divided between 400,000 people in partial unemployment and 50,000 more unemployed. This half a million employees have been living and having to support their families with at least 20% loss of income for months.
“If manifestations of anger and despair appear, including in our Switzerland so far so quiet, it is against the background of this social crisis,” said the president of the USS. People who have gone through this crisis without loss of income or without fear of losing their job sometimes find it difficult to understand this mounting anger and the violence of the feeling of injustice which affects a large and already precarious part of the population.
A minimum wage of 22 francs an hour
Faced with this gloomy picture, the USS demands a minimum wage of 22 francs an hour and compulsory CCTs also for the new jobs that have been created in the courier services and online commerce.
The USS demands the return to the population of nearly five billion francs in excess reserves from health premiums. This strengthens purchasing power and will stimulate the national economy.
We must also abandon any austerity program, especially at the federal level, so that unemployment does not increase further. Finally, the USS asks for job guarantees in companies as well as support for young people at the end of their training in their search for a future job.