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Swiss work ethic trumping extra holidays

Lyssandra Sears · 13 Feb 2012, 09:32

Published: 13 Feb 2012 10:51 GMT+01:00
Updated: 13 Feb 2012 09:32 GMT+01:00

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With the Swiss looking likely to reject an initiative extending paid holiday time to six weeks, politicians and academics believe a mixture of fear and Calvinism are keeping workers off the beach. 

A poll conducted in early February by public broadcaster SSR found that only 39 percent of those questioned approved the initiative for a greater number of vacation days.

The biggest stumbling block for the initiative is the belief that the requirement to offer each employee six weeks of paid holiday would place enormous burdens on employers.

These burdens would then have to be passed on to the employees, for example by freezing wages and making people redundant.

“People are scared to death of losing their jobs,” Josiane Aubert, National Councillor for the Social Democratic Party in Vaud and Vice President of the Travail Suisse trade union, told newspaper Tribune de Genève.

Some believe that the reason for the resistance to the holiday initiative is deeply rooted in the Swiss psyche.

"The Swiss worker knows that he must do his part,” the Swiss Business Federation's Romandie director, Cristina Gaggini, told Tribune de Genève.

“If he works hard, he will be proud to say ‘I belong to that group of people admired for the quality and accuracy of their work.’”

Hans Ulrich Jost, a professor of history at the University of Lausanne, believes that the Swiss work ethic is in part the result of the effects of Calvinism, a strain of Protestantism that highlights the importance of hard work.

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Jost believes that the idea that our wellbeing is closely linked with the workforce is something that has been reinforced across the preceding centuries.

A January poll commissioned by Travail Suisse pointed to a victory for the ‘yes’ camp in the popular initiative vote scheduled for March 11th. In 2009, Travail Suisse secured enough signatures to force the vote. 

Under current law, holiday time allowance varies from sector to sector and from one canton to another, although all employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks. 

Lyssandra Sears (news@thelocal.ch)

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