Collective agreement: 75 years of industrial harmony

On 15 May 1937 the first collective agreement saw the light of day in Switzerland. 75 years of uninterrupted industrial partnership were celebrated in Neuchâtel.
    The last CCT entered into force on 1st January 2012.
    The last CCT entered into force on 1st January 2012.
By : Janine Vuilleumier
Published in : La Revue FH

At the invitation of the Employers’ Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (CP), around 200 people, including representatives of watchmaking cities and cantons, representatives of trade union and employers’ circles and national and state councillors, gathered on 15 May at the Hôtel Beaurivage in Neuchâtel to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the birth of the Collective Agreement (CCT). The first of its kind on Swiss soil – two months and four days later the machine industry agreement entered into force – it played a pioneering role and over the years has proved its importance and its necessity.

In fact the first CCT was not meant to last, but simply to restore order between employers and employees and bring to an end a strike that had paralysed the watch industry. In the setting of the Hôtel DuPeyrou, nineteen employers’ associations and the trade union FOMH, the forerunner of UNIA, signed an agreement to remedy a crisis situation affecting dial-makers in Biel. The crisis had spread as far as La Chaux-de-Fonds and company bosses had resorted to lock-outs (closure of factories). Hermann Obrecht, then a Federal Councillor, acted as mediator and led the discussions that resulted in the signing of the first CCT. To bring a return of industrial harmony, employees and employers had to renounce the weapons of strikes and lock-outs respectively, wages were increased, six days’ holiday re-introduced and a court of arbitration put in place to settle disputes. This peace pact was signed for a period of seven months. At the time, its instigators had no idea that 75 years and 14 revisions later, the CCT would still be in place.

Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, Federal Councillor and head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, underlined the importance of such an agreement, the cornerstone of a viable economic model that has earned our country a formidable competitive standing in the international arena. «Because of its scope, the end result was much more than a simple sectoral agreement. The new CCT brought an end once and for all to the climate of class struggle, while at the same time laying the foundations for the country’s economic prosperity», he said. He also noted that it was thanks to this agreement that recruitment today was gathering pace and made easier in our country. Proof of this can be found in the rate of unemployment, which at around 3% is among the lowest in the world. The last CCT, signed last autumn at the Hôtel DuPeyrou, entered into force on 1st January 2012 and applies to around 400 firms and 45,000 employees. It is renewed every five years.

A travelling exhibition organised by the CP and the trade union UNIA retraces the birth of this historic agreement. Four elegantly illustrated panels clearly explain the special features of the first agreement that put an end to industrial strife in Switzerland. From 1937 to the present day, the exhibition explores the different facets of industrial relations and throws light on those involved in this partnership and its mechanisms. It will be presented at Porrentruy Vocational Centre (20 June - 10 July), Le Sentier Museum of Watchmaking (September), the Longines Museum (24 September - 24 October), and the Cité des Métiers in Geneva (21 November - 15 December). For more details, visit:

Published in : News, La Revue FH
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