Trade unions call for demo against Swiss pension reforms

A woman wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, "Touche pas à ma retraite" [Don't touch my pension]. Women are particularly affected by the proposed changes to the old-age pension system, say Swiss unions. Keystone / Martial Trezzini

A dispute over reforms to the Swiss old-age pension scheme continues. Trade unions have rejected recent proposals and call for a national demonstration in Bern on September 18.

This content was published on September 3, 2021 minutes

Reforms of the state old-age pension scheme that are on the table are an affront to workers, according to the Trade Union Federation and the trade union umbrella organisation Travail Suisse. They are particularly detrimental to women, the middle classes and are damaging trust in the existing pension system, they say.

“If it continues like this, we can’t see how we can continue to support the reform of the 2nd pillar,” Gabriela Medici, the deputy central secretary of the Trade Union Federation, told a press conference in Bern on Friday.

The complex Swiss pension system is based on three so-called pillars: old-age and survivors’ insurance (known as the AVS), occupational pension planning (often referred to as LPP) and private saving for old age encouraged through tax breaks.

Unions are unhappy with moves by the centre-right majority in parliament to introduce certain reforms of the old-age pension scheme. The government says a legal amendment is needed to stabilise the system, as contributions and pension payments are increasingly out of balance.

It has proposed raising the retirement age for women from 64 to 65 – in line with that of men – and increasing value added tax.

Recent reform proposals by the Social Commission of the House of Representatives would result in a reduction in pensions and favour high-earners, according to the unions.

But some groups think the government's proposals don't go far enough. Young Radicals, the youth wing of the centre-right Radical-Liberal Party, in July handed in 145,000 signatures in Bern to force a referendum (assuming 100,000 are valid) on a proposal to bring the retirement age to 66 by 2032, from the current 64 for women and 65 for men.

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