Better work conditions demanded to attract more workers for just transition

 (Photo: UNIA)

Last 7 October, thousands of workers from Zurich, Switzerland's electrical and building technology industries took to the streets to demand a new collective bargaining agreement and better working conditions that reflect their important role in the green and ecological transformation. The BWI-affiliated UNIA, which participated in the demonstration, said that there is a lack of labour skills in the nation, notably in the electrical and construction fields. It emphasised that more people must be hired and trained for the various professions that are viewed as essential components to a just transition to a greener future if the government is to live up to its responsibilities under the recently enacted climate law.

However, the trade union lamented that young workers in general are not motivated to apply for work in the said professions due to the poor working conditions and lack of recognition associated with the said jobs. UNIA reported that many workers currently employed in the said industries are expected to quit. According to its recent survey, 44 percent of those employed as electricians are contemplating of resigning their posts due to bad working conditions. 

UNIA warned that if there is no radical improvement in the working conditions of the said professions, the employers’ marketing campaign to attract more young people to the sector will fail. And without a new generation of electricians and building technicians who are crucial for building and construction retrofitting, Switzerland's climate targets will become more difficult to attain. Peppina Beeli, UNIA’s expert on climate and energy issues, provides the figures: "In Switzerland, buildings are responsible for 44 percent of energy consumption and a third of Co2 emissions. Luckily, the Climate Act guarantees substantial resources, but the challenge is enormous and many jobs will have to be created to meet it.” This was echoed by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) which estimated that up to 87,000 jobs will be needed to renovate buildings, replace heating systems and install solar systems.

BWI gave its full support to UNIA and stood in solidarity with the thousands of workers who marched in Zurich last Saturday. “It’s is time for employers to sit down at the bargaining table and deliberate in good faith with unions on how to improve the industries’ working conditions to attract more retrofitting workers who are crucial to meeting our climate goals. There is no green transition without the workers’ participation. Their professions, whether they are installing solar panels and heat pumps and/or refurbishing old buildings, are essential in meeting our ambitious climate targets. Let’s give them the recognition that they deserve and improve their working conditions tos secure their health and safety,” BWI General Secretary Amber Yuson said. 

Aside from its climate agenda, UNIA also called for higher wages, a reduction of working hours, the lowering of the retirement age and better health and safety standards.