• Bernhard Ebbinghaus
  • Robert Fluder
Part of the The Societies of Europe book series (SOEU)


Switzerland adopted a liberal constitution early and industrialization spread quickly but unevenly. Although workers enjoyed political and organizational rights from the beginning, they only slowly received increasing social and employment rights, given the relatively conservative nature of direct democracy and subsidiarity enshrined in federalism. The working class and its organizations were marked by political-religious fragmentation and regional diversity, due to crosscutting linguistic, religious, rural-urban and citizen-foreigner cleavages. Three main political union movements still compete today: the Socialist unions allied to the Social Democratic party, the Christian unions (Catholic and Protestant) with ties to the respective religious parties, and the Free-National unionists, a patriotic anti-Socialist movement. In addition, white-collar workers in the private sector founded a politically neutral peak organization, while some public employee unions and several professional associations remained independent. Given the need for social consensus in a small, open economy and culturally segmented society, social partnership became an integral part of Swiss liberal corporatism and consociational democracy. On the one hand, economic interest groups are involved in political decision-making and implementation via the legislative process, and they play a role in referendum campaigns. On the other hand, employers and unions maintain a large degree of self-regulation, based on widespread sectoral ‘peace’ agreements that entail mutual recognition, no strikes or lockouts, and voluntary bipartite arbitration.


Public Employee Union Movement Social Democratic Party Union Confederation Public Sector Union 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Bernhard Ebbinghaus and Jelle Visser 2000

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  • Bernhard Ebbinghaus
  • Robert Fluder

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