The unions launch their social autumn in the spring

Pierre-Yves Maillard agrees: temporality is unusual. The umbrella organization he chairs, the Swiss Trade Union (USS), generally appears as fall approaches. In this spring of 2022, a “new reality” forces unions to intervene earlier in the public debate. This haste has a specific cause: inflation of 2.4% and the adverse effects on Swiss household income. The current level is the highest level in Switzerland for ten years. Added to this is the announced increase in health insurance premiums for 2023. This could rise to 8% to 10%, the largest increase in the past ten years.

Also read: All unequal in the face of inflation

For a family with two children, the addition of these two increases will increase annual expenses by an average of 3,500 francs, according to USS calculations. This sum makes Pierre-Yves Maillard say that “two awarenesses” are necessary. First, “we need to get used to automatic indexation again to avoid a fall in real wages”. This logic is said to have been lost because the Swiss economy “is no longer used to inflation”, a phenomenon that some young USS employees “only know from the books”, confirms Daniel Lampart, chief economist at the power station.

Outside of economic reality

The second consideration of the former minister of Vaud is political. Several fiscal projects are in the pipeline in federal Bern. However, he regrets, “they are no longer in line with economic reality”. The socialist refers to the abolition of the withholding tax (subject to a vote this fall), deductions in favor of 3rd pillar holders, the planned VAT increase in 2024 and what he presents as a decrease in AVS benefits for women .

What solutions does the USS recommend? Inflation compensation and salary increase, minimum wage of 4,000 francs for full-time work 13 times a year. These wage demands are due to the expiry of various collective labor agreements in the coming months.

Also read: Wages are also starting to take off

Inflation is indeed “a new parameter to take into account”, agrees Marco Taddeï, head of the Francophone Swiss Employers’ Union. There are more, he warns: the specific situation of each company and the future prospects. “We are not completely out of Covid yet and the war in Ukraine is causing great uncertainty. Future discussions will have to include these imponderables,” he recalls. As for a general wage increase, “is not decided by decree”, but is negotiated “in a decentralized way, sector by sector”. “In the country of social partnership, CCTs will be negotiated from the end of the summer. We’ll have to see where inflation is right now. We must not ignore the usual rhythm,” concludes the boss’s representative.

“Health insurance premium shock”

The third claim relates to health insurance premiums. If the USS is “elated that the Federal Council is considering innovative solutions to offset the effects of the energy shock,” according to the statements of Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga, “it would be incomprehensible, continues Pierre-Yves Maillard, that it is “not trying to premium shock.” In the country as a whole, the increase would mean an additional 3 billion francs in levies.

Also read: They enter the professional world at the age of 30 and live on “constant DIY”

The USS is asking the government to make proposals to limit health insurance spending to 10% of income. Vaud set such a ceiling while the socialist worked there as a minister. His party has submitted an initiative that wants a threshold at the federal level. Another, from the Center, is that if premium growth exceeds wages, authorities, health insurers and service providers should take steps to reduce those costs. It is also time for Pierre-Yves Maillard to allocate part of the funds’ reserves, currently valued at 6 billion francs, to mitigate this announced increase. A notice from the Federal Council will be required because the law requires the premiums to cover the costs. Another recommended path: that the Federal Council intervene in the tariff that fixes the cost of medical services (Tarmed), as it had done in 2018, making it possible to reduce certain expenses. In fact, this measure would be “the only one that makes it possible to respond to the emergency before 2023”, assures Pierre-Yves Maillard.

“Staying back in the reserves is not a good idea,” said Benjamin Roduit, Walliser National Councilor for the Center and member of the Health Commission. Intervening in Tarmed will not mitigate the announced rise. But there is no other alternative for 2023. Even if that is not enough, it is therefore necessary to seize these two tools. It is becoming urgent to find a consensus and to really work on costs in Parliament.

To have: Our dashboard of the Swiss economy

Leave a Comment