Just before Christmas, the clothing company Pimkie eliminated all employees in Switzerland. A month later, the saleswomen are still waiting for their wages – as well as for the necessary documents for the unemployment fund. And today?
It was a sad Christmas present that the employees of Pimkie in Switzerland: At 3 p.m. on December 21st, Mode Diffusion System (MDS), Pimkie’s Swiss subsidiary based in Basel, informed all employees via conference call that they would be leaving on December 17th December filed for bankruptcy. The saleswomen were instructed to close the two branches in Geneva and Crissier immediately.
Those responsible at MDS had not believed their branches for several weeks. do not give the least information about the situation of the company, let alone about the bankruptcy, to the expected. The employees therefore continued to work after the bankruptcy was declared until the announcement on December 21, when they suddenly lost their jobs: without wages, letters of resignation or documents to register with the unemployment insurance fund. Employees are not only entitled to their wages, but also to the documents they urgently need to register as unemployed.
Staff was caught off guard
The management of Pimkie probably didn’t mention the expected bankruptcy at Christmas and caught them completely unprepared at the worst time of the year: “Three days before we don’t know how to pay our rent and bills,” complained Laurence, one of nine excluded saleswomen from the Romandy in December.
The employees don’t understand what happened to them and how the management could treat them like this. Apparently, the company was in no hurry to notify its employees of the bankruptcy. Nor had it even looked for solutions to preserve jobs. The French label Pimkie is owned by the Mulliez family with a fortune of 26 billion euros. According to Syna Geneva regional head Fabrice Chaperon, it’s not the first time Pimkie has shown such behavior. Something similar had previously been said in Germany, Austria, Spain, France and most recently in Belgium: «Pimkie has driven its staff in precarious circumstances everywhere, pocketed the profits and left social responsibility to the public sector. This shows the urgency of genuine bankruptcy law reform. It is important to protect the rights of responsibility and to hold companies to their human and financial responsibilities.”
The saleswomen are still waiting for important documents from their former employer. The fight goes on too. Regional secretary Komla Kpogli speaks of “blatant incompetence”. At least a small relief: The former Pimkie employees have meanwhile received the first unemployment insurance payments.
On January 18, 2022, Syna wrote to the Geneva and Vaud State Councils responsible for the economy and labor, asking them to examine this bankruptcy. In particular, it is to be examined whether Pimkie is one of those companies that received state support during the corona pandemic.
Syna accompanies the employees in French-speaking Switzerland in all steps during this extremely difficult time. Komla Kpogli is confident: He expects the story to end positively for the saleswomen concerned, also because they have sought support from Syna.
Three questions for Komla Kpogli, Geneva Regional Secretary
Komla, what is Syna’s role in these bankruptcy proceedings?
Komla Kpogli: “At the Syna union, people come first. That’s why we first listened carefully to the employees concerned. Based on their needs, we started trading a side. First we demanded the outstanding wages, then we demanded the necessary documents for the compilation of the dossier both at the bankruptcy office and for the insolvency compensation.”
In general: how do employees have to proceed in the event of bankruptcy?
“We advise not to wait for the dismissal, but to contact the union immediately. As soon as the first signs of difficulties appear in the company, employees contact us. So they know how to proceed in an emergency. And we help to avoid employees being caught off guard by workers who are not transparent about their company’s difficulties.”