Switzerland must act on women’s rights, say unions

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Switzerland must act on women’s rights, say unions
Hundreds of thousands of women demonstrated on 14 June. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/AFP

The recent nationwide strike by women should not be ignored and Switzerland should act to improve pay and conditions for women in the workplace, Swiss workers’ unions have said.


At a press conference on Tuesday, the unions acknowledged that, nearly 30 years after the first nationwide protest over inequality, women in Switzerland are still angry and should be listened to, reported news agency ATS.
Switzerland’s equality law – which was enshrined in the constitution in 1981 – should be better applied and improved if necessary, said the unions.
Vania Alleva, president of Unia, acknowledged there was “no good reason” that women on average earn nearly 20 percent less than men.
For men and women with equal qualifications, the wage gap remains nearly eight percent.
Companies should regularly analyse their salaries to ensure that any discrimination can be eliminated, Alleva said. 
Introducing paternity leave or a shared parental leave system would also reduce inequalities, the unions added. 
Switzerland is the only country in Europe not to offer any statutory paternity leave to fathers and the issue continues to be debated in parliament, with little success. 
Several hundred thousand people across the country turned out to demonstrate for women’s rights on 14 June this year, nearly three decades after a mass strike by women put the issue in the spotlight.
This year’s march was partly a frustrated reaction to a new salary equality law which was passed by the Swiss parliament in December. The law requires companies with over 100 employees to analyse pay equality within the company and report their findings, however many people feel the new law doesn’t go far enough, since only around one percent of employees work for companies of that size.
Switzerland has long had a conservative attitude to women’s rights. Women were only granted the right to vote at federal level in 1971, with some cantons holding out on granting cantonal voting rights until the early 1990s.
Legislation progressed in the 1980s and 90s, but far slower than other European countries. Abortion on request became legal in 2002 and statutory paid maternity leave was finally enshrined in law in 2005.


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