Update #5: After two days of negotiating, TPG unions and directives came to a “protocol of understanding” that prevented the strike announced for 4 December.
“The important thing is that there won’t be any layoffs,” said Valérie Solano, SEV Director.
GENEVA, Switzerland – The TPG workers’ labour dispute with the Geneva State Council continues to escalate, after the three public transportation unions agree to go on strike for an indefinite period starting on Thursday 4 December at 3:00.
The Transport Workers Union (SEV) which went on strike on 19 November, will be joined by transfair and ASIP which represent maintenance workers and other TPG personnel including subcontractors.
A new action could be seen brewing during the past few days. The labour movement is desperately flexing union muscle before the State Council and the head of state transport, Luc Barthassat, to avoid layoffs and cuts to pension benefits.
On 27 November, various other city unions joined protests before the State Council chambers.
On Friday 28 November, the Geneva Community of trade union action (CGAS), an umbrella organization for unions in Geneva, stepped in.
CGAS reps were to meet Barthassat but the Councilor skipped the meeting, calling instead a delegation from the State Government on the right to strike and the “minimum service” rule (more here on this dispute).
The meeting ended seemingly well. CGAS was satisfied after hearing from the State Council that it would guarantee workers’ constitutional rights, including the right to strike.
For its part, the State Council was stern that unions should respect the right of any worker to cross a picket line.
The question of “minimum service” though, remained unresolved; who is to provide such service in case of a strike? The TPG, the unions, or additional personnel called on by the State?
Hours later however, a strike notice was delivered to the TPG (*notice this is not an official translation, read it here in French):
We want direct contact either with transportation Councilor Luc Barthassat, or a State Council representative. Unions demand that the 2015-2018 contract be reworded so that there are no layoffs or deterioration of working conditions, and retirees’ vested benefits are maintained.
Doors are still open for dialogue but time is running out.
A strike is announced for 4 December. It is not known how long it will last.
Reactions continue to pour in – some against, others in favor of the workers demands. Certain political parties such as the right-wing UDC, propose to remove the right to strike by employees in any institution subsidized by the State.
For now, it is the waiting game.
The State Council will discuss the TPG contract on its 4-5 December session, starting at 17:00 – the session can be viewed live here.
Updated 3 December: The TPG official website has acknowledged the strike on its website, but has yet to give an idea of alternative transportation plans for tomorrow.
<— Photo at left from the SEV