Swiss feel job cuts chill as economy turns

Waves from the eurozone debt crisis are hitting the safe-haven Swiss economy, with companies announcing thousands of job cuts this week.

Swiss feel job cuts chill as economy turns
D Sharon Pruitt (File)

“The economy is beginning to turn,” said Daniel Kalt, economist at UBS.

“We are facing recessionary trends,” he added.

Until now Switzerland has appeared largely sheltered from the crisis although the dark side of safe-haven status was an inflow of funds which pushed up the Swiss franc, hit competitiveness and forced the central bank to intervene.

The strong Swiss currency, the eurozone crisis and the poor international economic situation were all pushing the Swiss economy towards the negative end, Kalt noted, forecasting growth of 0.8 percent for 2012, after 2.0 percent for 2011.

“It is possible that we will book one or two negative quarters,” he said.

The changing climate is evidenced by a series of job cuts announced recently.

Novartis last week announced that 2,000 jobs would go, including 1,100 in Switzerland, where two factories would be shut.

The group has promised to pay 18 months of salary in compensation to the retrenched but its move to reduce headcount despite posting profits has angered unions.

“We are in a situation of profit maximisation, it’s an absolute lack of social responsibility of the company, it’s absolutely scandalous,” said Anne Rubin, a representative of the Swiss union Unia.

Novartis said it was necessary to cut jobs in order to remain competitive.

In the industrial sector, lift-maker Schindler also decided to slash 1,770 off its headcount.

The group said the reductions would affect mostly employees in Spain, Portugal and the United States.

Meanwhile, Kudelski, a major manufacturer of television decoders, said on Monday it would also make 270 employees redundant.

Switzerland is to account for a third of the reductions, said the group, which employs 3,000 people.

A day later, the country’s second biggest bank Credit Suisse also announced 1,500 job cuts, mostly in the developed world.

Even international agencies are examining job reductions.

The World Health Organisation’s executive board is meeting this week to look at proposals including one that suggests cutting costs by “reducing the size of the secretariat staff at headquarters.”

Between 75 and 80 percent of the agency’s income comes in dollars, although about the same proportion of expenditure is in Swiss francs or currencies that have also appreciated against the US currency.

With the franc strengthening dramatically against the dollar, the agency has had to reduce jobs in recent months in order to cope.

Underlining the seriousness of the problem, Andrew Cassels, who is WHO strategy director, said: “We are looking quite hard at the costs of different locations, one of the most expensive locations is Geneva.”

For Kalt, the trend is clear.

“More job cuts will come, it’s inevitable,” he said.

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Hear ye, here ye! This Swiss city is looking for a town crier

Can you carry a tune? Are you a night owl? If so, this job posting in Switzerland may be up right up your (cobblestone) alley. Here’s how you can submit an application for this… very high position.

Hear ye, here ye! This Swiss city is looking for a town crier
The hat and coat are optional for the job. Photo by Lausanne Tourisme

As far as unusual employment opportunities go, this one from Lausanne is — quite literally — tops.

The city, which employs one of Europe’s last remaining town criers, is looking for people to fill this position on part-time basis.

What’s a town crier?

In Lausanne’s case, it is a person who announces the hours every night between 10 pm and 2 am from the bell tower of the city’s imposing Gothic cathedral, a landmark overlooking the roofs of the picturesque Old Town.

The workplace: Lausanne Cathedral. Photo by Lausanne Tourisme

The person who will assume this position will continue a tradition that this city in the canton of Vaud has cherished since 1405.

These are the requirements for the job:

  • To watch over the city each night
  • Announce each hour on the hour between 10pm and 2am in a melodious voice (in French, but knowledge of foreign languages is a plus)
  • Be able to climb 53 stone steps to the cathedral’s bell tower
  • Not have a criminal record
  • No falling asleep on the job
  • Have a business apprenticeship certificate (we are not sure why)

This is 365-days-a-year job, but the new hire will share the position with other criers.

Interested? This is how you can apply.