Christiane Brunner proposes to launch a popular initiative to finally obtain equal pay. Feminist, trade unionist and socialist politician, Genevoise, one of the instigators of the first women’s strike in 1991, looks back on this fight.
Five days before a new feminist mobilization, the National Council voted on Wednesday to raise the retirement age for women to 65 years. “It’s outrageous. We haven’t seen progress on equality and don’t have a real agenda to achieve it. Why is equality at the expense of women? I’m not sure May the people accept it “, indignant this pioneer in the fight for women’s rights.
Thirty years after the 1991 strike, there are still battles to be waged. Equal pay, demanded for forty years, has still not been achieved in 2021, underlines Ms. Brunner: “Women still have reasons to strike. A lot of discrimination results from unequal pay,” she criticizes. .
For this lifelong activist and former trade unionist, there is only one way to obtain equal pay: launch a popular initiative which would concretely describe the obligations of companies and put in place a means of control. “I may be wrong, but I believe that the population is ripe for such an initiative,” she says.
Retired from political life for fourteen years, this figurehead of feminism has watched society evolve. And the last federal elections, with its important arrival of elected officials, delighted this former parliamentarian. “As women, we were few and isolated in Parliament … Seeing the results of the last elections did me a lot of good! It was incredible to see all these women being elected, and not just on the left”, rejoices the Genevoise.
She also followed, with a touch of pride, the feminist strike of 2019 and the actions in 2020. “It’s nice to see these movements that last. In my opinion, we could use this instrument in a more targeted way, so as not to not lose efficiency, ”she said.
She sees in “the convergence of struggles”, the grouping of several causes such as ecology and feminism, a way of strengthening the movements, sometimes at the risk of scattering them. But she reserves her advice: “It is not my role, I am no longer in the field. But I am enthusiastically following the young movements that are starting up”.
Back in 1991
She more readily shares her memories. On June 14, 1991, a fuchsia tide invaded Federal Square in Bern. The first women’s strike involves more than 500,000 demonstrators across Switzerland. “Ten years after the inclusion of equality between men and women in the constitution, our situation had not changed. We wanted something concrete,” recalls the then organizer, Christiane Brunner.
The strike is launched by the Swiss Trade Union Union: “Getting the support of the union has been one of my greatest victories,” recalls Ms. Brunner. On the morning of June 14, 1991, she was not reassured: “I did not know if the strike was really going to take. I was surprised by the mobilization”, she recalls.
“Fight right and left”
Yet she traveled for months across Switzerland to convince feminist assemblies and unions to join her: “Going on strike was not straightforward, for some the idea was just absurd. ‘the symbol was overused. I had to fight on my left and on my right, but not with women! “.
During her political career, Christiane Brunner suffered violent sexist attacks, in particular in 1993. After having been a member of the Geneva Grand Council, then national councilor, she is the only PS candidate for the Federal Council. But the Federal Assembly prefers a man, Francis Matthey, then Ruth Dreifuss. “These remarks were violent. There was no big movement, like #Metoo today. We were acting without much support, apart from the support of women.”