To the delight of the country’s leading trade union federation, the Swiss government abandoned talks in May with the European Union over replacing Switzerland’s 120-odd treaties with Brussels with one overarching “framework” agreement.
The deal had been seven years in the making. Now it is broken. It had been agreed as a draft three years ago, but opposition within Switzerland forced the government to go back for improvements.
The three main sticking points were wages protection, state aid rules and access to welfare benefits by EU citizens. And the EU, overconfident as ever, refused to make any changes at all to accommodate Swiss reservations.
The ball is now in the EU’s court, but it looks like the Brussels bluff has been called. However, it may well try again to exert pressure as the individual treaties become due for renegotiation
The SGB/USS (Swiss Trade Union Federation), the largest umbrella body of unions in the country, issued an immediate statement welcoming the government’s decision on the grounds that it guarantees Switzerland’s existing wage protection laws against EU-based companies that sought to undermine them.
• A longer version of this article is on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk.