Unia is the end result of a merger between the Trade Union for Construction and Unity (GBI) and the Trade Union for Industry, Trade and Services (SMUV), the Swiss labour organisation for Sales, Trade, Transport, Food (VHTL) and some smaller branches that occurred in October 2004. The joining together of pre-existing bodies, specific to certain sectors, into an inter-professional trade union seemed to be the perfect answer to the increasing mobility of employees.
As stated on their website, Unia was founded on the core values of just and fair working conditions, social security, international solidarity and an economic system that is oriented towards the needs of the people.
When the Swiss labour market opened up to European Union citizens last October, allowing cross border working without the issuance of a work permit, trade union leaders were outraged and expected an increasing number of cases involving wage dumping.
At the time Vasco Pedrina, the joint president of Unia, threatened to organise strikes and boycotts if the authorities and employers failed to respond to union demands for strict checks and fair wages. He reiterated that the unions would challenge an agreement with Brussels to extend access to the Swiss labour market for citizens of the 10 new EU member states. Later in 2004, union leaders seemed satisfied with the additional measures the government invoked to prevent wage dumping and decided to neither launch nor support any nationwide ballot against the treaty.
Nonetheless, Paul Rechsteiner, president of the Federation of Trade Unions has recently described the additional measures approved by parliament to prevent abuses only met the minimum conditions set out by the unions. The government had agreed to appoint 150 inspectors to ensure that Swiss companies did not try to take advantage of cheap foreign labour. Pedrina believes that "while the adoption of these accompanying measures by parliament is one thing; their application is another."
Swiss News talks to Bruno Schmucki, head of the communications department of Unia, to find out more about the union, its continued vigilance, and what it is doing for workers in Switzerland.
Swiss News: When and why was Unia formed?
Bruno Schmucki: Officially, the trade union Unia was created on 16 October 2004 in Basel. The idea was to create an inter-professional trade union for all persons employed in the private sector. The culmination of this idea...