Women across Switzerland took to the streets in strike on 14 June 2019 – as part of a global movement calling for increased gender equality and an end to violence against women.
The action, being backed by unions including Nautilus and the Swiss confederation of unions (SGB) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), will particularly highlight Switzerland's poor record on defending the rights of women and families. Despite its high quality of life, Switzerland lags behind other developed economies in female pay and workplace gender equality, with Swiss women earning roughly less than 20% than men, say the unions.
When Swiss women leave their workplace to take part in public demonstrations during the afternoon of 14 June, it will be their first strike in nearly 40 years since basic gender equality was enshrined into the Swiss constitution in 1981. Ten years later in 1991 the Swiss Gender Equality Act was introduced, and that law banned workplace discrimination and sexual harassment and protected women from bias or dismissal over pregnancy, marital status, or gender.
More than 20 years on, however, women face growing injustice and inequalities. They say they still earn less than men, have their competence routinely questioned and face condecension, harassement and violence on the job and at home.
A statement from the ETF said Swiss women are disproportionally employed on precarious contracts and more likely than men to be unemployed. At the same time, women also do 90% of unpaid work and end up being hit by old-age poverty. Every day more than 11 women and young girls in Switzerland suffer from sexual violence.
Earlier this year, the unions set out a 19-point manifesto - demanding gender balance in wages; higher minium wages; decent pensions; zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as better recognition for the low paid world of care work.
The strikers' slogan 'pay, time, respect' will be heard in public demonstrations as actions gets underway by thousands of workers all over Switzerland – from individual actions in companies and organisations, to sit-ins, prolonged breaks and slow-downs. Many workers in civil authority offices are expected to take part, and most female MPs plan to leave parliament. Thousands are expected to congregate in the afternoon at rallies and demonstrations throughout various cities including Basel where the Nautius Swiss branch is based, Zürich and Bern.