“Swiss Post as an employer is assuming a pioneering role with the new CEC”
Family-friendly employment conditions, reconciliation of professional and private life, gender equality and protection against discrimination are key issues in Swiss Post’s new CEC that enters into force on 1 January 2021. Valérie Schelker, Head of Human Resources at Swiss Post and Member of Executive Management, explains why this will make Swiss Post even more attractive as an employer.
Valérie Schelker, Swiss Post’s new CEC is signed, sealed and delivered. What makes you particularly proud?
I’m proud of the fact that together with the social partners syndicom und transfair we have succeeded in enhancing Swiss Post’s good employment conditions in a forward-looking manner and making them even more attractive. Negotiations are always a matter of give and take and it’s in the nature of things that the interests at the negotiating table will differ. This means it’s even more important for all parties involved to find joint solutions in the interests of the employees. Beyond the specific improvements, the new CEC generally also offers employees stability and security in times of change. And this is more important than ever when we consider the current situation relating to coronavirus.
Which issues did you find particularly important during these negotiations?
For years, I’ve been championing equal opportunities irrespective of gender, background, age, language, culture, way of life, sexual orientation and other visible and invisible features. I promote the reconciliation of family and professional life, pay equality and fair employment conditions. I’m delighted that Swiss Post has achieved genuine progress with these important issues in its 2021 CEC.
Which improvements do you think employees will benefit from most?
All employees will benefit from the fact that the new CEC improves the reconciliation of work and private life. And with the new CEC, Swiss Post offers all staff expecting a baby or starting a family very attractive employment conditions: in addition to their 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, mothers are now entitled to take six further weeks of unpaid leave. We have doubled paternity leave from two to four paid weeks and fathers can additionally take four weeks of unpaid leave. Not only fathers are able to benefit from this arrangement but also the female partners of mothers in same-sex partnerships as well as parents adopting children.
How progressive are the employment conditions compared with other Swiss companies?
Particularly regarding the issue of families and working life, Swiss Post is assuming a pioneering role with the new CEC. I’m particularly thinking here about the joint parental leave that has so far only been offered at very few Swiss companies and that we will now be introducing. If both parents work for Swiss Post Group, they can pool their entitlement to paid and unpaid maternity and paternity leave and split the time among each other, although the mother at all times remains entitled to the 14 weeks prescribed by law. And at four weeks, Swiss Post will in future also be offering twice as much paternity leave as that envisaged in the draft bill that we will be voting on in the autumn.
Why is the reconciliation of work and family life so important for you?
From an economic perspective, Switzerland simply cannot afford to make too little use of the potential of well trained women and men with care duties. As Switzerland’s third largest employer and a public service enterprise, Swiss Post shares this responsibility. However, it’s not just families that I’m concerned about but about the promotion of diversity in general. Studies have shown quite clearly that diverse teams are not only more motivated but also more innovative and thereby also contribute to the business success of a company. Fewer wrong decisions are taken because mixed teams are able to adopt a more balanced perspective.
Paternity leave is a hotly debated subject in Switzerland. What does Swiss Post expect to achieve by doubling paternity leave from two to four weeks?
It not only promotes the equal treatment of men and women at the workplace but is also an expression of the changed role models that we want to reflect in our employment conditions. Young staff in particular have a new understanding of roles. We want to offer them an attractive working environment at Swiss Post.
These are all great improvements for families. What about other staff? Will they also see improvements?
We are setting a bold sign with the right to non-reachability and the possibility for part-time employees to schedule blocker days in consultation with their team. That way we are improving the health protection of both employees in operations with a roster as well as those in back office. This is particularly important in these times of digitization when we are “always-on”, allowing us to boost staff autonomy.
The new CEC pursues the goal of equal pay. Why has this goal not yet been achieved at Swiss Post?
In 2018, Swiss Post for the third time voluntarily commissioned the BASS office to review wage equality between men and women. With an unexplained wage gap of –2.2 percent, Swiss Post performed very well in the review. This represented a drop from –3.7 percent in 2016, and Swiss Post fares very well compared with the overall Swiss economy, which had an unaccounted gap of –7.7 percent in 2016. But we’re not going to rest on our laurels, and I signed the Charter for equal pay in the public sector on behalf of Swiss Post last autumn. By now also setting out the theme of wage transparency in the CEC and in future already providing salary details in our job advertisements, we are taking further steps towards equal pay.
A zero percent pay gap – isn’t this just an illusion?
It is a target that we are resolutely working towards together with our social partners syndicom and transfair. We have the opportunity particularly with new entries to avoid unaccounted pay differences from the outset and in doing so to reduce the percentage even further. Together with the social partners we have also created a platform on www.swisspostcourage.ch where employees can notify us in confidence if they are affected by unequal pay. Much of the remaining pay gap results from the previously automatic salary increases and has arisen in this way over the years. Corrections would logically entail salary cuts. This is not something we want as it is not the fault of the employees concerned.
The article on equality has been considerably expanded. Why is this issue important for Swiss Post?
It is a key concern of Swiss Post that we do not tolerate any form of discrimination. As a public service enterprise, we’re here for the entire population and want to represent it in its entire diversity.
What is your next goal?
I’m working with my team and with all units of Swiss Post to ensure that we can continue in future to attract highly qualified and motivated staff for all tasks and more than 100 Swiss Post job profiles. This is applies to the new functions that we’ll be creating as part of the transformation of Swiss Post as we want to solve not only today’s challenges but also those of tomorrow. With this in mind, I naturally also want to continue collaborating with the social partners with a focus on finding solutions. This is absolutely essential. The current crisis once again shows that our employees are our greatest asset as Swiss Post’s success as a company depends on them. We need to take care of them.
The new Swiss Post collective employment contract
Swiss Post, the trade union syndicom and staff association transfair have drawn up two agreements in the negotiations for the 2021 CEC: the first is the umbrella CEC that governs the collaboration between the social partners and applies to around 70% of the workforce at Post CH Ltd, PostBus Ltd and PostFinance Ltd . The second is the Post CH Ltd company CEC that sets out the employment conditions for around 25,000 CEC employees. The Swiss Post Board of Directors and the official bodies responsible at syndicom and transfair have approved the new agreement (umbrella CEC and Post CH Ltd CEC). The new CEC will enter into force as of 1 January 2021 for a period of three years. It will replace the current CEC from 2016. The new CEC contains significant improvements for staff, in particular regarding the issues of family-friendly employment conditions, reconciliation of professional and private life, gender equality and protection against discrimination.
The CEC employees at PostBus Ltd and PostFinance Ltd will receive separate company collective employment contracts based on the umbrella CEC that take account of the sector-specific features and framework conditions. PostFinance has concluded its negotiations but the outcome is still pending approval by the PostFinance Board of Directors and the official bodies at syndicom and transfair. Negotiations at PostBus are currently still in progress.