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Public sector workers strike in western Switzerland for higher wages

Demonstrators in Lausanne on February 9: Vaud is the third-largest (by population) of Switzerland’s 26 cantons. © Keystone/ Valentin Flauraud

Around 3,500 public sector workers in the western Swiss canton of Vaud took part in a strike on Thursday. They are calling for wage indexation to keep up with inflation and rising living costs.

Thursday’s demonstration in Lausanne is the fourth in two months by public sector workers. It comes after an even bigger gathering in the city on January 31 (some 5,000 people, according to police) and another similar-sized event on January 24.

Demonstrators came from various public sector areas, notably teachers, nurses and police officers. The Vaud education department said 1,500 teachers across the canton had taken part in Thursday’s strike, less than in previous actions.

+ From the archives: how a 1918 strike reshaped Swiss democracy

On Thursday, Vaud’s cantonal government reiterated its invitation to the three trade unions behind the demonstrations to meet on February 23. According to the Keystone-SDA news agency, the executive struck a more conciliatory note than before, saying it would listen to “issues important to [the unions]”.

The government’s latest letter marked a “small opening”, said FSF Vaud trade unionist David Jeanquartier. He said the question of indexed salaries would be brought up.

Switzerland, while not facing the same levels of inflation as in the neighbouring eurozone countries, nevertheless saw an average rate of 2.8% in 2022, the highest in 30 years.

It’s relatively rare that large labour strike actions take place in the country.

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