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‘Fight injustice by giving preference to locals when hiring’

The aim of the initiative is to take back control of immigration and reserve jobs for local workers instead of “looking further afield,” says parliamentarian Céline Amaudruz, setting forth her arguments why citizens should vote yes to the People’s Party’s “limitation initiative” on September 27.

Born of the desire to freely decide its own destiny, Switzerland grants its citizens broad democratic rights. These include the people’s initiative, whereby a group of people, after gathering at least 100,000 signatures, can propose an amendment to the country’s constitution.

If a majority of the electorate and cantons accept the text, it comes into effect and is, if need be, implemented by a law. Unfortunately, the government and parliament have difficulty respecting the people’s will and have got into the habit of distorting democratic choices when it comes to enacting them into law.

Thus, a first initiative aimed at taking back control of immigration was successful on February 9, 2014. But after numerous phone conversations and meetings with the then president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the Swiss executive and legislative capitulated and adopted a “euro-compatible” law in December 2016.

It so watered down the constitutional text adopted by the people that we are now forced to come back with another initiative with the same purpose, that is to decide for ourselves whom we let in.

Free movement is of non-negligible benefit to the Swiss economy, but it has a particularly unfortunate perverse effect. Workers living in Switzerland are readily replaced by cheaper Europeans.

This phenomenon affects all categories of the active population, including university graduates, but above all older employees, for whom redundancy now means long-term unemployment, which in six cases out of seven leads to exclusion from the labour market and to social welfare (for non-homeowners).

The problem has reached such proportions that the government and parliament have agreed to set up a new social insurance scheme, namely a bridge-benefit to fill the gap between unemployment payments and the retirement pension.

With our initiative, we want to take back control of immigration and reserve jobs for local workers before looking further afield.

Macron on the same track

When we submitted the text of our initiative, we were not thinking of the Covid-19 crisis, but this dramatic pandemic has clearly demonstrated the soundness of our approach.

In Switzerland, more and more people are being laid off, businesses are feeling the pressure, if they have not already been driven to bankruptcy. This phenomenon is not limited to Switzerland; the European Union and the rest of the world are experiencing the same thing.

Concretely, jobs are being cut at a worrying rate while the number of people seeking work is increasing in the same proportion. This means there are more and more candidates for fewer and fewer positions.

In such a situation, competition in the labour market clearly grows ever fiercer. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is on the right track and wants to encourage national preference in order to save jobs.

Businesses receiving public funding would be limited in the number of foreign workers they can recruit and could only resort to posted workers if no other solutions were found.

The French government has already taken action and forced the PSA automotive group to partially abandon its plan to transfer Polish and Spanish employees to France, obviously at the expense of the local workforce.

We simply want to do the same thing, that is to reserve our jobs first and foremost for local workers. As always, we are pretty much the only ones to be concerned about people living in Switzerland.

Our opponents are warning of an apocalypse if the initiative is accepted. It would be the end of Switzerland as a business location, industry would suffocate for lack of a skilled workforce – in short, everything we already heard in 1992 when Switzerland refused to enter the European Economic Area.

The doomsayers were greatly mistaken then, so why would they be right today? Was Switzerland an industrial wasteland before free movement?

Our initiative is in fact a vote of confidence. It’s about determining whether we believe we can ensure our own economic growth or whether we should entrust our future to outside forces. The People’s Party is confident that the citizens will rise to the occasion.

Translated from French by Julia Bassam

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch.

Translated from French by Julia Bassam