Gieri Cavelty, Editor-in-Chief of SonntagsBlick.
Gieri CavetyEditor-in-Chief of the SonntagsBlick
There is an infrastructure Switzerland and a savings Switzerland. These two Switzerlands cross each other.
On the one hand, we are proud of our well-developed transport network, both rail and road. Our healthcare system and our universities, where important basic research is carried out worldwide. On the other hand, there are many who see the raison d’être of our country in a low government quota, ie low taxes and little spending.
In order to find out which mentality brings us forward, one can ask oneself, for example: Why do IBM and Google have two important development locations in Zurich of all places – because of the low taxes or rather because of the ETH and the university?
As brilliant as Switzerland’s infrastructure is by and large today, Savings Switzerland has gained a lot of ground over the last few decades. Evidence of this is the success of private security companies, as described by my colleague Thomas Schlittler in the current issue of SonntagsBlick. Countless communities use their services because they can no longer afford a real police force. More precisely: Because they no longer want to afford them. Or as a Zurich mayor once put it: “In Wettswil, low taxes were always the priority and not as much infrastructure as possible.”
Whether in Arlesheim, Kreuzlingen, Landquart, Thun or Wettswil: Across the country, more and more communities are letting employees of private security companies go on patrol. They distribute parking fines, carry out identity checks, intervene in the event of assaults and are intended to convey a good sense of security. Depending on the location, they are equipped with or without handcuffs, a baton and pepper spray. In certain cases, the guards can also carry firearms.
The security guards come along like police officers, but there is one important difference: their earnings are a third to a half lower. The working conditions are also often critical. SonntagsBlick previously reported on employees of a security company who had to work for up to ten days at a time and were called out at short notice even on days off. According to the Unia trade union, these conditions have not changed, despite the collective labor agreement. On the contrary: the competition between providers is causing increasing deterioration.
The internal insecurity is not the only indication of how much the balance of power between infrastructure Switzerland and savings Switzerland have shifted. In our classrooms it is now nothing unusual for a teacher to face up to 30 children. At the same time, more and more elderly people end up in retirement and nursing homes that are run by private investors and where fewer caregivers have to take care of more people because it brings more returns.
In other words: the thinning out of the state goes hand in hand with a casualization of important professions.
Representatives of those communities that have outsourced some or all of their police work report mostly very positive experiences. But it can also happen that a spokesman for the authorities tells of such a serious incident: The employee of a private security company wanted to be particularly vigilant by discovering and extinguishing a fire – a fire that he had started himself. The matter was never made public, the company fired the offending employee and in return was allowed to keep his job.
The privatization of public services appears to be a worthwhile goal for the advocates of Savings Switzerland. In reality it is playing with fire.