SWITZERLAND - The Swiss economic federation "economiesuisse" as well as the conservative opposition party SVP reject plans to further subsidise the underfunded federal railways pension scheme SBB.

The Swiss government has started negotiations on financial aid for the SBB Pensionskasse which is currently only 92.4% funded and has one of the highest pensioners quota (61% compared to 21% in the Swiss average). (see earlier IPE-article: State could pay CHF3bn into SBB fund)

The government has said it veered towards the solution of paying CHF662m (€411m) but all solutions, ranging from no subsidy to the full CHF3bn support, are open for public discussion until November.

But criticism of these negotiations has become pronounced, which might hinder any bill on the issue passing thorough parliament.

The SBB fund became independent from the state in 1999 with CHF12bn in financial aid to achieve full funding.

However, one year later, the fund was hit by the stock market crash and has not fully recovered since.

"Instead of taking the necessary measures in order to restore the full funding status, the people responsible at SBB are calling for more tax money - but from our point of view this is not justifiable," economiesuisse noted in a press release.

The SBB as well as unions and the Social Democrats SP argue the large amount of pensioners in the fund is the state's responsibility as they retired when the state was still the owner.

"Many tax payers already have had to make higher contributions over the last years to patch up their own Pensionskasse or they have to accept pension cuts", economiesuisse added.

One case in point is the Ascoop Pensionskasse for employees of private railways and other transport companies. Since 2006, its employees have to pay 1.5% more into the pension fund on top of the normal contributions.

In its current session, the Swiss government is also looking into the possibility of making a contribtion to this Pensionskasse as well.

Ascoop had demanded subsidies should SBB be granted further financial aid, but there is no direct connection between the state and Ascoop as its 155 members are mainly privately owned transport companies.

However, a government commission is checking whether the state could grant a subsidy given it is holding shares in several of Ascoop's member companies.

Ascoop is currently only around 80% funded, citing "unfavourable outside influences" as reasons behind the underfunding.