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Swiss employers want to extend working hours

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12:26 CET+01:00

With unemployment on the rise in Switzerland, the country's main employers' association is calling for the implementation “emergency measures” to help make businesses more competitive again.

The Swiss Employers Association (SEA) warned on Monday of “tough times ahead” for companies in Switzerland, with the strong franc taking the blame for growing labour market uncertainty.

The president of the association, Valentin Vogt, said there will be “structural damage to the economy as a whole, with job losses and outsourcing” if the currency stays overvalued.

Switzerland's unemployment rate rose from 2.8 to 2.9 percent in October, a slight monthly increase that experts believe heralds the beginning of a downward economic trend. It was the first rise since January 2010, when unemployment peaked at 4.5 percent due to the global economic and financial crisis.

In order to avoid the job landscape worsening further, SEA wants companies to have greater freedom to take “emergency measures” to adapt the working conditions of their employees. The new measures would include extending working hours for workers, cutting wages and paying cross-border workers in euro “in certain exceptional cases.”

The SEA also called for more to be done to weaken the Swiss franc. According to Vogt, companies will only be able to become competitive again if the exchange rate between the franc and the euro is set at 1.30 or 1.40, instead of the current 1.21 established by the Swiss National Bank in September. Other business organisations, like Economiesuisse and Swissmem, have made similar requests.

Monday also saw the announcement by packaging machinery group Bobst of 420 lay-offs by the second half of 2013. Most of the job losses are expected to come at the firm's base in the south-western city of Lausanne.   

The company said “there will no collective dismissals”, with job cuts will mainly stemming from the cancellation of temporary contracts, early retirements and a strategy of not systematically filling posts left by workers. 

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