Getting the chemistry right – seventy years of the AVR

On 19 January 1950, around one hundred employees of F. Hoffmann-La Roche meet to found the Employee Association of F. Hoffmann-La Roche & Co. Ltd, Basel in the Kleiner Festsaal auditorium of Stadtcasino Basel. The purpose of this new association is to promote closer ties among employees but also foster better contact with management. The annual membership fee is set at 6 francs.

Pre-existing organisations include the Company Employees' Association (Betriebsangestellten-Vereinigung) and the Association of Academics (Vereinigung der Akademiker). The Roche Works Council (Arbeiterkommission Roche – AKR) has already been formed, and the Roche Sports Club was established in 1935. From the beginning, the aim is to promote contact between the member and senior managers and with other company associations – for instance via the magazine “Das Molekül”, founded jointly by the company associations of Chemical Industries Basel in 1949.

The new association is staffed on a volunteer basis. The minutes of the General Meeting in 1951 note that there would be no remuneration for Committee members as “the principle of the honorary role of the Committee must be preserved”.

One of its first successes, achieved together with the other company associations, is to provide accident insurance for women and children. From 1952, a cost-of-living bonus is awarded at the request of the AV. An important point of contact between the company and the employee association is the company pension fund.

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Real social partnership

“Seventy years of the AVR means seventy years of real social partnership,” says Bruno Weissen, Head of Human Resources Basel & Kaiseraugst. “It's a success story.” Together with and thanks to the AVR, it has been possible to overcome various challenges over the years. Management and employee representatives have become true sparring partners.

Jürg Erismann, Head of the Basel & Kaiseraugst Site, shares this view. Even if employers and employees represent different positions, they agree on the objective: everyone wants the best for the site and the employees. Discussions arise about what form the respective implementation should take. Over the years, they have developed a trust-based relationship with one another, which shapes the Roche culture.

Even in its 1966 Annual Report, the AVR wrote: “We are not a fighting unit that views the employer as the enemy.”

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