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SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action

The Swiss pilots’ union could go on strike during Switzerland’s busy autumn holiday period.

SWISS pilots threaten an October strike action
SWISS pilots might go on strike on October 17th,. Photo by Pixabay

The union, Aeropers, which has been negotiating salary increases and improved working conditions with Switzerland’s national airline, has rejected the carrier’s latest collective labour agreement (CLA) and is threatening to go on strike.

The  (CLA) is a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers or employer organisations. 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 : What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

The pilots said they would cease flying on October 17th, which falls in the middle of school holidays in a number of cantons — the period when many families holiday abroad.

“SWISS has not sufficiently entered into the matter of the legitimate interests of its pilots”, Aeropers said, adding that if the airline doesn’t come up with a better offer, the union “will initiate the procedures for a strike”.

For its part, SWISS said in a press release that it offered its pilots 60 million francs more than on the previous CLA, but “Aeropers executive committee has rejected this latest offer as inadequate, and has made demands of its own totalling over 200 million”.

However, Aeropers head Thomas Steffen has denied SWISS’ claim saying the 200-million figure is “a fantasy number” that has no basis whatsoever. According to Steffen, the pilots’ demand was “significantly less than half of this sum”.

He went on to accuse the airline of “propaganda” at the detriment of its employees”.

He added that the strike would me a last-resort measure if the dispute on pay, which has been going on for a year, is not resolved within a month.

“We’ve negotiated for a year and made sure that our members are level-headed and fly safely and reliably, despite being without a contract,” Steffen said.

If the SWISS cockpit staff, which also includes its sister airline, Edelweiss, does go on strike, it will be the latest labour dispute in Europe’s aviation, which includes a strike by Lufthansa ground crew, which impacted Switzerland over the summer.

However, strikes by Swiss workers is relatively uncommon compared to other countries.

READ MORE: Why are strikes so rare in Switzerland?

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For members


Can Switzerland keep its trains running if energy crisis worsens?

Millions of passengers rely on the usually dependable Swiss public transport network to get them from point A to point B. But this could change if there is an electricity shortage.

Can Switzerland keep its trains running if energy crisis worsens?

In what could be one of the most paradoxical statements in recent months, Switzerland’s Federal Transport Office commemorated the 175th anniversary of the national railroad system in March 2022 with these words: “By opting for electricity, the railways bet early on a modern energy source available in Switzerland”.

Of course, nobody could have predicted back then that one day electric power may not be as plentiful, affecting the smooth running of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB).

This could, however, happen if there are — as officials predict — power outages caused by European-wide energy crisis.

While the natural instinct might be to blame Russia for this situation, the war in Ukraine is only partly responsible for the impending crisis.

The other reason lies much closer to home: 28 of 56 nuclear power plants in France — which exports electricity to Switzerland —  had to be shut down early this year for an undefined period of time due mostly to corrosion damage.

As a result, industry experts say that electricity will likely become scarce during the coldest months of 2022 and 2023, possibly impacting to some degree essential services such as telecommunications, electronic bank payments, and public transportation.

READ MORE: How energy shortages could hit daily life in Switzerland

How worried should we be about trains being out of service?

As Switzerland’s rail system has its own power resources, in the event of a general breakdown its energy autonomy is estimated at about one hour — just enough time to bring the trains back to the station and not leave passengers stranded.

However, in a complete blackout, all train services would come to a standstill.

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Depending on the extent of disruptions, Switzerland’s economy could suffer, as it relies heavily on trains —not only for passenger traffic but also for transporting goods.

For Franck Furrer, secretary general of the Association of Shippers “freight has very few paths on the rail infrastructure” and lack of electricity would impact the transport significantly.

What about passengers?

SBB has been preparing for such worst-case scenarios, the company announced on Thursday.

Swiss trains “are powered 90 percent by hydro energy,” mainly from SBB’s own power stations. However, these facilities currently produce less energy due to drought and low water levels in the reservoirs over the summer.

While the company said it is trying to ensure that its “reservoirs remain at their maximum level”, in the meantime it has to buy substitute energy on the market “at constantly rising prices”.

Still, is no no guarantee that the trains will be able to run all winter without any disruptions.

In the event that the government imposes restrictions on energy use, “the rail offer should be greatly reduced or would lead to an interruption of services”, SBB said.

Could the government order limits on energy use that would impact public transportation?

If shortages were to become serious, the Organisation for Electricity Supply in Extraordinary Situations (Ostral) would activate a four-step procedure.

As a first step, the Federal Council will call on the population (individuals and businesses alike) to voluntarily reduce their electricity consumption.

If this is not enough, consumption restrictions will be imposed. Among them would be the ban on operating ski lifts, as well as limits on other infrastructures that use up a lot of electricity — and that would include public transport system.

READ MORE : How is Switzerland is preparing for power outages this winter?