Trade unions in Switzerland

Trade unions in Switzerland
National organization(s)SGB/USS Travail.Suisse
Total union membership675,000 (2017)[1]
Density14.9% (2017)[1]
CBA coverage49.2% (2016)[1]
Global Rights Index
2 Repeated violations of rights
International Labour Organization
Switzerland is a member of the ILO
Convention ratification
Freedom of Association25 March 1975
Right to Organise17 August 1999

Trade unions in Switzerland have their origins in the 19th Century when the country began to industrialise. Workers' associations first formed in the 1860s which assumed union functions, mutual insurance activities, sponsored candidates for election and campaigned in referendums.[2] In 1873 a number of the associations in the German-speaking areas formed the Workers' Federation (German: Arbeiterbund), which represented around 5,000 by the late 1870s and campaigned for legislative reform.[3] In 1880, the Workers' Federation dissolved itself into two separate wings; the Swiss Trade Union Federation (SGB/USS) and the Social Democratic Party.

For the most of the latter half of the 20th Century, trade unions enjoyed relatively stable and secure positions within the country's consensus-oriented industrial relations system. However, following the recession of the early 1990s, trade unions came under increasing pressure from employers and the government which promoted the deregulation of labour markets, less binding collective bargaining and weaker wage growth.[4]

At present, there are two national trade union centres; the Swiss Trade Union Federation (SGB/USS) with approximately 385,000 members and Travail.Suisse with approximately 170,000 members. The former is associated with socialist political currents in Switzerland, the latter somewhat associated with Christian Democratic currents.[5]


  1. ^ a b c "Switzerland". OECD Stat. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  2. ^ Erne, Roland; Schief, Sebastian (2017). "Strong ties between independent organisations: Unions and Political Parties in Switzerland". In Allern, Elin Haugsgjerd; Bale, Tim (eds.). Left-of-centre parties and trade unions in the twenty-first century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192507709. OCLC 973882564.
  3. ^ The Formation of labour movements, 1870-1914 : an international perspective. Linden, Marcel van der, 1952-, Rojahn, Jürgen. Leiden: E.J. Brill. 1990. ISBN 9004092765. OCLC 21333683.CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ Oesch, Daniel (2011). "Trade Unions and Industrial Relations in Switzerland". In Trampusch, Christine; Mach, André (eds.). Switzerland in Europe: Continuity and Change in the Swiss Political Economy. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781136815027.
  5. ^ "Trade Unions / Switzerland / Countries / National Industrial Relations / Home - WORKER PARTICIPATION.eu". www.worker-participation.eu. European Trade Union Institute. Retrieved 2019-10-31.

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