Swiss union representatives reacted angrily to the cuts unveiled by the US company, calling them an “earthquake in Switzerland’s workplace”.
“It’s a slap in the face of all the staff,” Christof Burkard, deputy managing director of the Angestellte Schweiz employees association, said in a statement issued on the union’s website.
Burkard slammed the rapid dismantling of the Alstom operations — the cuts amount to almost a quarter of its Swiss workforce — so quickly after GE's takeover.
“The American style of management has definitely arrived in the Swiss workplace.”
GE said it plans to eliminate 1,700 positions in Germany, 765 in France and 570 in the UK.
The American company said it has launched a consultation process in Switzerland to discuss a restructuring plan as its aligns its different activities to the current realities of European energy market, particularly steam and gas-driven power generation.
GE has taken over Swiss plants in Baden, Birr, Dättwil, Turgi and Oberentfelden.
But a company spokesman, Philippe Cochet, told Le Temps newspaper there would be no plant closures in Switzerland.
As proof of its commitment to the country, GE has installed the headquarters of two of its units — Power Services and Steam Power Systems — in Baden.
The city in the canton of Aargau is also the European headquarters of its Steam Power Systems.
Cochet said the company’s restructuring is occurring at a time when there is a reduction in energy consumption in Europe amid slow economic growth.
The plan will be rolled out between now and the end of 2017, with support for affected employees, he told Le Temps.
GE staff were transported to Baden by bus where they were informed of the planned layoffs, with many reacting bitterly to the announcement.
Economic Affairs Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann came under fire because he said last year after talks with Alstom management that he expected no job losses fromn the GE takeover.
But he told reporters in Bern on Wednesday that economic conditions have changed since then, Blick reported online.
“From this perspective it is necessary to have some understanding,” he said.