SWITZERLAND - The Swiss public sector employees’ union body VGB has launched a petition to stop parliament implementing pension and job cuts aimed at saving up to CHF2bn (€1.29bn) by 2008.

The VGB, which includes over 35,000 members of the three public sector employee bodies PVB, VPOD and Garanto, hopes to gather at least 10,000 signatures.

PVB general secretary Hans Müller told IPE that parliament would probably discuss the plans to cut benefits and cull 5,000 public sector jobs by the second week of June.
Müller is also president of the VGB.

The petition will be circulated until May 18, five days after parliament reconvenes for the summer session.

Giordano Schera, political general secretary of Garanto, which represents customs officials, said: “Public employees alone would contribute 12% to the re-organisation plans – it is too much.”

“We are tired of this treatment. We do a proper job, we should receive proper benefits,” said Schera, who drafted the petition.

He told IPE that the intended changes to public employees’ pensions include raising the pension age to 65 from 62. The number of contribution years would be unchanged at 40. The change would be implemented next year.

Contributions are also to be increased on an age basis. “The older the employee the higher the contribution,” Schera said. Over 50s could face an increase of up to 30-40%.

The petition calls for the pension age to remain 62 – and for workers over 50 to retain the right to retire at 62.

As PUBLICA, the under-funded pension fund for public employees, pays on average 60% of wages on retirement, the petition has also asked to keep “the bridge-over pension”. This is an indemnity they receive when they retire to compensate for the loss of income.

The Federal Council’s saving plan aims to scrap this benefit, which Schera said is essential to public employees. The bridge-over pension should equal the minimum first pillar pension, AHV, he added.

VGB will follow the debate in parliament. In the meantime it is considering launching another petition in a month. A working committee, which includes Schera, has also been set up.