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Switzerland: workers fight to save jobs at Tamoil

12 February, 2015In early January Tamoil Collombey announced the closure of its refinery in Valais, Switzerland. This decision will affect over 250 jobs, an outcome that, IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, UNIA is not willing to accept.

For almost one month UNIA together with the Syndicats Crétiens du Valais (SCIV), representing the workers at Collombey, have been fighting Tamoil’s decision to layoff staff without a real social plan in place. After a number of attempts by the union to negotiate a better outcome for Tamoil staff, it is still unclear what the company will decide.

On 4 February the workers decided to interrupt their shifts from 1pm to 3pm. During this strike they were met by over 600 public supporters from the area, in a demonstration of solidarity for their struggle.

To demonstrate their commitment to the refinery and the disastrous consequences potential closure, some staff released 258 balloons; each balloon had the name of one of the workers that would lose his/her job. Others marched to the sound of funeral music and symbolically planted crosses decorated with their tools (helmet, lamp, tools, etc.). Another group set up a display presenting the quality of their skills at the refinery.

Following Tamoil’s decision to suspend operations at the refinery and fire staff, UNIA had called a general assembly in early January. From the beginning of this struggle, workers’ representatives made it clear that “It is unacceptable that Tamoil proceeds with the collective dismissal of staff without exploring solutions that could maintain jobs and the expertise at the worksite in Collombey, we therefore must come together to show Tamoil our will to keep jobs here and to explore the different avenues that will enable us to achieve a better outcome.”

As a result of the general assembly a resolution was adopted calling on Tamoil to withdraw the collective redundancy procedure, file a formal request to activate temporary layoffs, and waiver all layoff procedures until notification by the competent authority of its decision on possible measures of layoffs. Despite UNIA’s demands Tamoil pressed on with its original layoff procedure.

Furthermore, employees also called on cantonal authorities to support the steps for removing the collective redundancy procedure initiated by Tamoil and asked them to take the necessary steps with federal authorities to investigate the possibility of increasing the length of compensation for layoffs to 24 months.

It is important that UNIA members are now more determined than ever while negotiations continue between UNIA, SCIV and Tamoil”

said Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary.

IndustriALL will continue to give support and solidarity to this important struggle as it develops.