Tens of thousands rally for wage equality in Switzerland

Some 20,000 people marched in Bern on Saturday demanding wage equality between the genders.

    Women hold banners demanding equal pay in Munich, Germany, on 20 January 2018 [File: Alexander Pohl/Getty Images]
    Women hold banners demanding equal pay in Munich, Germany, on 20 January 2018 [File: Alexander Pohl/Getty Images]

    Around 20,000 people marched through the streets of the Swiss capital, Bern, to demand wage equality, organisers said, warning that women are prepared to go on strike if Swiss parliamentarians do not fix the pay gap.

    In a statement, Switzerland's largest union, Unia, which helped to organise Saturday's protest, said women were "sick of sexism and discrimination" and "sick of wage inequality".

    The union, which is made up of over 40 organisations, said more than 20,000 people showed up to protest.

    Protesters carried posters that read "Equality now" and "Same work, different salary", the AFP news agency reported.

    On social media, activists used the hashtag #Enough18 to bring attention to their cause.

    Switzerland's parliament is debating an amendment on Monday that is aimed at imposing more oversight over wage distribution at large companies.

    Gender equality has been a part of the Swiss constitution since 1981. However, women still earn 20 percent less on average than men - "a scandalous percentage", Unia said.

    Corrine Scharer, a member of Unia's board of directors said: "Even if you take into account all of the regular excuses and you only compare women and men in the exact same position with the same professional experience, the fact remains that a woman in Switzerland is cheated out of ($313k) over the course of a career, just because she is a woman".

    A change for equality 

    The Swiss government has asked legislators to introduce oversight into how salaries are set in a bid to shrink the pay gap in the country.

    Bern has asked that any company with more than 50 employees be required to provide wage equality details to an independent entity for verification every four years. 

    In May 2017, the upper chamber of the Swiss parliament gave the green light to a less-detailed version of the initiative, saying the bill should apply only to companies with more than 100 employees - affecting less than one percent of employees in the country.

    The lower house is set to debate the bill on Monday but Unia and other activist groups have called for a strengthened version of the law. They, for instance, want women who face discrimination to be entitled to compensation as well as fines for companies that allow a pay gap to persist. 

    If these demands are not met, Unia said it and other organisations would call for a women's strike in 2019, to ensure that "women's rights to equality finally materialise".

    SOURCE: AFP news agency


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