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Nestle plans to hike work hours for Swiss staff

[ZURICH] Nestle is looking into measures to boost productivity in Switzerland, including increasing working hours, after the central bank removed its cap on the Swiss franc, its Europe chief was quoted as saying in a Swiss paper on Sunday.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) unexpectedly ditched its 1.20 francs per euro cap last month, sending Swiss stocks plunging, the franc soaring, and raising concerns about Switzerland's export-reliant economy. "We have to talk about everything, about pension plans, unnecessary wastage in production, better machine capacity, but also about working hours, for instance, an increase from 42 hours to 44," Nestle's director for Europe, Middle East and North Africa Luis Cantarell was quoted as saying in Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag.

Other Swiss companies are cutting prices, asking suppliers for discounts, paying staff in euros and demanding new hours to protect profits from a soaring franc currency.

Nestle employs over 10,000 workers in Switzerland, where it earns revenues of 1.5 billion Swiss francs (US$1.59 billion), the paper said.

However, Nestle is not considering paying wages in euros, not even for workers who live in neighbouring euro zone countries and commute across the border to work in Switzerland, Mr Cantarell said.

Uncertainty surrounding the SNB's removal of the cap, as well as a popular vote last year to limit immigration from the European Union, has clouded Switzerland's appeal as a stable business location and led to some calls for less regulation.

In a separate article in Schweiz am Sonntag, Nestle Chief Executive Paul Bulcke said he did not understand why regulation was increasing more strongly in Switzerland than in the rest of the world. "This is making us unpredictable, and we have to ask ourselves, how reliable is this country?" Bulcke was quoted as saying.