Paid signature collection for grassroots initiatives is a profitable business. In French-speaking Switzerland, two companies have very little control over this market. Two and a half years after Mise au Point’s revelations about the existence of this environment and its excesses, nothing, or almost nothing, has changed.
A team from 19:30 from RTS reopened the Mise au Point survey in the heart of Lausanne, capital of Vaud. Almost every day, half a dozen young people, with three or four different grassroots initiatives in hand to get Lausanne’s residents to sign up, get busy in the busy streets.
>> First review the Focus Study of 2. February 2020:
Among the 25 texts currently collecting signatures, one stands out. The so-called “La nuit porte conseil” initiative, launched by elected SVPs, aims to introduce a 24-hour reflection period before any abortion. A passerby was shocked by the way this text was presented to her.
“The first thing he said to me was basically that the text was intended to facilitate access to abortion. I thought that was strange, so I asked to read the text of the law that came with the petition. There I realized that that was not the case at all”, says Emilie Savioz at the microphone at 19.30.
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To understand the abuses of these signature collection processes, which were already condemned by the Mise au Point program two years ago, the 19:30 team continued its investigation by addressing the two actors that share this market in French-speaking Switzerland.
Vox Communication is the first company that has agreed to receive journalists from RTS. At the head of its founder, a 27-year-old Frenchman, Jérôme Campese. His company employs about fifteen people, paid by the initials and trained by him.
“In an hour and a half, I have plenty of time to train you in the four measures, to train you in the questions you will be asked and how to fill in the form”, explains the entrepreneur. The arguments of its employees could not be heard in the inquiry. The committees that are responsible for the initiatives that are harvested would have opposed it, believes the head of Vox.
Freshly arrived from France a few days earlier, Florent Pernet, a combine harvester, was still answering questions from RTS. He assures that he is not tempted to lie because of his signature salary: “It’s 1.50 to 3 francs. A normal day is about a hundred signatures, it’s worth it. We have four initiatives, there are two which I don’t necessarily like, so I just don’t use them”.
“Hourly wage” at Incop?
A few days later, the door previously closed to Incop, the other player in this market, also opened to the team at 19.30. This association was established 10 years ago and likes discretion. In the field, some of his collaborators lied to RTS journalists by claiming they worked for Vox or were independent.
The founder and president of Incop Franck Tessemo denies having asked them and is offended when the team at 19.30 speak to him about “distorted truth” to collect initials. “We fight against that. Faced with this phenomenon, we set up hourly wages to avoid it,” he defends himself.
However, the collaborator that the RTS team was given permission to follow by Incop’s president in full harvest for the initiative of the nuclear lobby “Stop the Blackout” is well paid at the signing. And he remains rather vague when passers-by ask him questions about the committee behind the text. “Is it an initiative from the Greens or the young Greens?”, says a passer-by. “No, it’s people from different parties and engineers from SuisseEnergie”, replies the collector.
National proposal rejected
Outraged by this practice, Socialist National Councilor Baptiste Hurni unsuccessfully tried to have them banned at the national level. His text was rejected a year ago. “The Federal Council said in its response to my proposal: there is no structural problem”, an answer that disappointed the Neuchâtel resident.
>> Read about it:
However, the national councilor is pleased that the practice has been banned in the canton of Neuchâtel and that it is better regulated in Geneva. He hopes that the canton of Vaud will follow suit, even if all attempts at regulation have so far failed.
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TV topic: Carole Pantet
Web adaptation: Julien Furrer