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EMPLOYMENT

What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

If you are employed in one of Switzerland’s large or medium-sized companies, chances are your salary and work conditions are determined by a collective agreement. What exactly is this?

What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?
Let's shake on it: Labour agreements are negotiated by trade unions and employers. Photo: Pixabay

Switzerland’s labour law is quite comprehensive, encompassing working conditions, employees’ rights, annual leave and other time off, protection from discrimination, and gender equality, among other aspects of employment.

In addition to the basic rules and conditions outlined in this legislation, many employees are also covered by the collective bargaining agreement (CLA), a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers or employer organisations. 

It is estimated that roughly half of Switzerland’s workforce of about 5 million people are covered by a CLA.

In fact, the strength of Switzerland’s CLAs means that there is no federal minimum wage, as minimum standards are often included in your bargaining agreement. 

A handful of Swiss cantons have put in place a minimum wage, mostly in the French and Italian-speaking parts of the country. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about minimum wage in Switzerland

What do these agreements include?

Generally speaking, they cover a minimum wage for each type of work; regulations relating to work hours; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland

Other important employment-related matters are also subject to negotiations — for instance, pension fund regulations, early retirement, conflict resolution procedures, and funding of training.

CLAs are sector-specific; in other words, they take into account the particular aspects of each branch. As an example, Switzerland’s largest labour union, The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (UNIA), maintains 265 collective agreements in the areas of industry and construction.

Collective agreements can also be company-specific — for instance, Coop, Migros, or SWISS airline — or specific to a certain region.

READ MORE: Everything foreigners need to know about trade unions in Switzerland

It is therefore clear that CLAs benefit employees in a number of ways, not the least of which is knowing what to expect from the company you work for and being sure that your rights are protected and not subject to the employer’s whimsy.

What if your company has not concluded a CLA?

In this case, you are still protected by the above-mentioned labour legislation, which ensures that your welfare and rights are being respected.

You will also sign an employment contract with your company, which outlines your salary, rights and obligations, as well as everything your employer can and cannot do, or expect from you.

READ MORE: Which jobs are in demand in Switzerland right now – and how much can you earn?

According to a government site, “in professional sectors that do not have a collective employment agreement, the federal or cantonal authorities can establish a standard employment contract …The employer can only modify these conditions to offer better terms for employees”.

The system seems to be working well, as evidenced by a survey carried out by EY consultants, which found that 87 percent of workers in Switzerland are happy with their jobs.

Strikes are rare in Switzerland

Another proof of employee satisfaction is that Swiss workers rarely go on strike.

Switzerland has a long tradition of avoiding industrial conflict through negotiations. Many sectors are governed by collective bargaining agreements which set conditions for employees.

That tradition is deeply rooted and also seen in the country’s politics, where compromise is important.

Some also argue that the fact people can voice their opinions through regular referendums reduces the potential for conflict in the workplace. 

READ MORE: Why strikes are rare in Switzerland

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JOBS

What’s the outlook for the Swiss job market this autumn?

The prospects of finding a job in Switzerland towards the end of 2022 are promising, especially in certain sectors, a new study has shown.

What's the outlook for the Swiss job market this autumn?

The outlook for the Swiss labor market will say positive towards the end of 2022 even with a worsening of the overall economic outlook, according to Swiss news agency Keystone-ATS.

Most sectors are recruiting, with the exception of finance, insurance and real estate, a new survey of 500 employers revealed.

However jobseekers with certain qualifications or experience are more in demand than others.

“Among the top 10 qualifications sought after are recycling and waste management, ecosystem and biodiversity management, human resources and cybersecurity,” said Jan Jacob, the head of Manpower Switzerland

According to the survey 500 employers carried out in August with 500 employers, 36 percent of companies said they plan to hire in the fourth quarter, while 16 percent plan to reduce their workforce. Some 42 percent of those companies surveyed see no change in staff levels in the coming months.

All Swiss regions reported positive job prospects, with particularly high scores in Ticino  and Central Switzerland.

But 24 percent of companies surveyed in the Geneva region and 14 percent Zurich said they were planning to recruit.

“Considering that the survey was conducted in the context of geopolitical and economic risks, the war in Ukraine and the consequences of the pandemic, the hiring outlook is still positive,” Jacob said.

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