Trouble In Paradise: Downsizing Hits The Swiss

Layoffs and salary cuts as "the era of brutalization" begins

Arrive a few minutes early for the 1:10 p.m. express from Zurich to Bellinzona and you can enjoy the delicately choreographed activity surrounding the long train. Conductors scurry back and forth, engineers hook and unhook electric engines, and a crew of handlers hustles to load mail into the baggage car. Just one thing is missing: passengers. When the express pulls out--on schedule--only a few dozen riders are on board. The same scene involving superbly run but almost empty trains is repeated every day across the country. So it was no wonder that the Swiss railroads' chief recently suggested that workers take pay cuts or face layoffs as a way to help reverse the system's massive losses.

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