Collective employment contract
A collective employment contract (CEC) is an agreement between one or more associations of employers and trade unions. Its purpose is to regulate in a binding manner the working conditions of the parties to the agreement, beyond what is provided for by the Code of Obligations and the Labor Act.
There is no obligation in Switzerland for employers' associations and trade unions to conclude a collective employment contract. Where there is no CEC for the industry concerned, employment relationships are regulated by the usual legislation, in particular the Code of Obligations and the Labor Act.
On the other hand, the conclusion of a CEC is imperative for the introduction of certain working arrangements, such as the waiver of the recording of working hours or the introduction of a fluctuating working schedule. The employer cannot simply conclude an individual agreement with each employee or issue company regulations.
The employers' and employees' associations have a lot of leeway. They can negotiate and conclude a large number of provisions, for example on the method of payment of overtime, wages during public holidays, a possible 13th month salary or the right to salary in the event of illness and accident. Some CECs may provide for a more favorable regime for young mothers, for example by extending the duration of maternity leave.
The question of customary leave in the event of a death in the family or a marriage is usually regulated in the CEC. In some industries, a CEC may also provide for the reimbursement of expenses and payment of wages in the event of further training.
With regard to the usual paternity leave, many CECs provide for a certain number of days of paid leave when a child is born. These regulations are likely to fall when paternity leave comes into effect on 1st July 2021. The usual leave paid by the employer will be replaced by paternity leave paid by the loss of earnings insurance.
Collective employment contracts are intended to be adapted to the branch or trade to which they apply. In some sectors, the adoption of a CEC is necessary to fight against wage dumping or to regulate health and safety issues in the workplace, for particularly dangerous activities.
Collective employment contracts contain a number of rights that employees can claim from their employer. These rights may go beyond the legal minimum provided for in the Code of Obligations or the Labor Act, among others.
When an employee takes advantage of a salary increase or early retirement provided for in the collective employment contract, the employer may be tempted to dismiss him or her in order to avoid his/her obligations. Beware! In most cases, this will be a reprisal or wrongful termination. The employer risks being strongly sanctioned.
Workers sometimes wish to negotiate, under the aegis of a trade union, a collective employment contract with the employer. When these negotiations get bogged down, the employees can, under very restrictive conditions, when the social dialogue has broken down, go on strike in order to make the employer bend.
According to "peaceful employment relations", if, the working conditions have already been regulated by a collective employment contract, employees who are bound by a CEC cannot, in principle, go on strike over matters already regulated in a CEC.