Sunshine, snow and skulduggeries

There are many mountain restaurants in the skiing regions of Adelboden-Lenk and Zweisimmen/Saanenmöser/Schönried/St. Stephan. The great views and sundecks are an invitation to linger for a while. But working there is anything but a pleasure.
Several  restaurants in both skiing regions are operated by Kappeler Gastro AG (also known as Hüttenzauber), one of the biggest skiing hospitality companies in Switzerland. Many  of the other huts in the region are run by Adelboden-Lenk Bergbahnen AG. The workers of both companies are treated miserably - many accuse both companies of illegitimate terminations, wage-theft and ghastly accomodations.

More than ten seasonal workers got in contact with the grassroots Free Workers Union (Freie Arbeiter*innen Union, FAU) to fight against their miserable conditions- which consistently fall below even minimal standards. Most of the workers are non- fluent German speakers earning a very low salary, and with Kappeler/Hütenzauber their contracts come with probationary periods that are as long as their fixed-term contracts. They are lodged in sparsely furnished rooms, that are rented out by a third-party company on behalf of their employer. This situation offers great potential for abuse and this potential is indeed being used.


Labour conditions

In both companies it is not possible for workers to know how much and when they will be working, because shifts are rescheduled constantly, sometimes even on the same day. At Kappeler it is near impossible for workers to defend themselves: after recruitment, the company only communicates with them in German and it is known that workers have been revenge-fired for daring to speak up. And there is a lot to speak up about: among other issues, workers are expected to get back down to the valley after work using toboggans - after dark and after the last slope inspection. At least one accident has occurred because of this.


Living conditions

The workers that contacted the FAU have been living in a house without a properly covered roof since December throughout the winter season. They share two toilets and one shower between ten people (another shower is available, but it is located in a passageway, so users have no privacy whilst showering). When it rains the basement, where the laundry room is located, is flooded and several rooms are infested with rodents.  In December, the heating was sometimes turned off. They are required to pay between 450 and 700 Swiss Francs a month (450 CHF/month is per person in a shared double room) for these substandard accommodations. And as if that wasn't bad enough, their superiors at Kappeler Gastro frequently threaten to evict them from their rooms with only one week notice if they are unfit to work, such as after an accident. The eviction attempts are carried out very aggressively, using both psychological and physical pressure. The FAU has contacted the Bern cantonal police concerning this and is considering filing a complaint for insult, attempted assault and attempted coercion.

Wage theft

Wages are stolen from all workers and unjustified wage deductions are made. An example is the charging of cleaning fees for their overpriced rooms, when in fact they are obliged to clean them themselves.
At Adelboden-Lenk Bergbahnen, sick days are being not paid and tips are distributed arbitrarily.
At Kappeler Gastro the deductions are so extortionate that some workers get negative net salaries. And there are deductions for everything- overnight stays at the workplace, which should be covered by expenses; for incorrect bookings and cash shortfalls in the restaurants, which are legally the company's business risk. On top of this, workers are not paid a 13th monthly salary . Even petty amounts are deducted, such as bank costs for wire transfers to non-Swiss bank accounts. And not at all surprisingly in such a company, the vast majority of the tips are kept by the company and the rest are paid out arbitrarily and as part of the salary.

So far, Kappeler Gastro AG has only responded to the demands of the workers themselves and the FAU with verbal abuse. Adelboden-Lenk Bergbahnen has not reacted at all. In response to this lack of communication,  the FAU organised two events in the skiing regions on Saturday 24 February 2024. These events drew public attention to the skulduggeries of the two establishments: the first took place at the Rinderberg Swiss Alpine Lodge and the second at the valley station of the Lenk-Adelboden mountain railway in Lenk. Public reactions ranged from astonishment at the appalling conditions to anger that nothing has changed in these restaurants for the last twenty years.

The FAU will stay on top of the matter and will keep you informed of the situation.

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