Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Fate of Zuchwil, Switzerland

Old Sulzer factory in Zuchwil

There are occasions that leave a sad feeling in the pit of your stomach. One of the villages in our area is Zuchwil. Never heard of it? Probably not, it is a small village but was a growing village: many apartment blocks are mostly inhabited by the workers in various factories in the village.

The photo shows the Sulzer factory; a large machine manufacturing company. One of their well-known products were weaving machines, used in the Swiss embroidery industry which is centred in the town of St. Gall. As time passes, the world changes and this factory was no longer profitable. It was closed in Zuchwil and the production was transferred to a more economic location, meaning that many jobs were lost for the local population.

However, the company Scintilla was still there. Scintilla had been taken over by the company Robert Bosch in Germany many years ago. They were known for the manufacture of Robert Bosch electric Drills and Saws, as well as producing vacuum cleaners for a well-known Swiss chain (Migros). Their claim to fame was the manufacture of the Scintilla Vertex Magneto which was fitted into The Spirit of St. Louis, the aircraft that Charles Lindbergh piloted on a non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927. If you visited the company there was a plaque on the wall somewhere announcing this historic achievement and it was something to be proud of in a small village somewhere in Switzerland.

I worked in the Scintilla many years ago, met my Mr. Swiss there, and due to a baby bump I left the company for family life. Mr. Swiss stayed there a while longer and eventually also left. We knew many people that worked there, and in spite of leaving the company still met many in the local town and contact remained. The village of Zuchwil was proud to have this company and many worked for the company. Over the years many retired, but the new generation of engineers and workers continued the work: a vital organisation in the area; When Sulzer closed even more so.

This week we read in the local newspaper that approximately half of the company Scintilla in Zuchwil will be closed. It was no longer economic and part of the production will be transferred to Hungary where the wages are lower. We ask what happens in Hungary when their wage level rises, will it again be transferred to another cheaper country? This is the way of life today. If it is too expensive, it makes no difference whether perhaps the standards are not so high, or families will be left without an income, just close it down and move.

It is the Christmas season, just the right time in the year to tell the people, sorry you have to work elsewhere. Apparently they are going to find a solution for those men at an age where a new job will be impossible to find. We can only hope that the younger generation, family fathers, find work in the area. Zuchwil is now becoming a ghost town. The apartments and houses are, of course, still there and the people still live there. During the day there is no work in Zuchwil. Either the workers find a job in another town or village or they just have to hope that life will go on somehow.

Yes it is a sad time for the village and having worked and lived there myself. It hurts to see what has happened.

Below a photo of the Scintilla/Robert Bosch as it is today (but will soon be half empty).

Robert Bosch Company, Zuchwil


  1. It's such a sad thing when this happens. Unfortunately it's all too familiar in many places. South Wales has seen a lot of this sort of thing, where communities have grown up around one particular industry (particularly the coal-mining and steel-making industries) and when this has either closed down or moved to a different location has left entire communities unemployed.

  2. Yes, I feel for you too, Pat. My latest blog features (just) the brewery in Hornsdean on which the village/town depended until a couple of years ago when brewing was transferred to London (hardly for wage reasons!). In the end the locals had to campaign even to save the iconic tower from demolition. They saved two of the beers too, although now brewed also in London. But I feel for you and Mr Swiss - being part of the life of the factory/village is a different thing.