Fight for nationwide limit.
Voters in Switzerland have rejected plans for a nationwide minimum wage. At CHF22 ($25) an hour, the limit would have been the highest in the world.
In Sunday’s nationwide vote 76.3% of voters were against the initiative. Voter turnout was 55.5%.
Under the initiative, someone on a minimum wage in Switzerland would have earned double the rate in Britain or the United States. Although high, the Swiss limit was set against the country’s high cost of living, where the median hourly wage is around CHF33.
Luxembourg currently has the top ‘real’ minimum wage at $10.70 an hour, when adjusted for purchasing power, and the Swiss wage would have been comfortably ahead of that at $14.
The country’s biggest trade union umbrella group had pushed the initiative to a vote, arguing a nationwide limit would entitle everyone to a “decent rate of pay”. In the grander scheme of things, they said the change would help reduce poverty and fight wage dumping, where firms bring in workers from abroad but pay them less.
Once the vote outcome was clear, unions vowed to continue to fight against low pay. The Trade Union Federation chief economist, Daniel Lampart, conceded that a large majority had come out against the minimum wage being enshrined in law. But that does not mean that the Swiss back wages that people are unable to live on, he said.
The minimum wage initiative was the third time in just under two years that Swiss voters have been called upon to decide how much – or how little – jobs should be worth. Last year voters approved a crackdown on pay packages for ‘fat cat’ top managers but rejected a move to cap executive salaries at 12 times that of the lowest paid employees.
The CHF22 an hour limit would have fallen in the current upward range for low-paying jobs, which account for about 10.5% of all jobs. The Swiss Employers’ Association said in opposing a minimum wage they were not defending a policy of low pay rates, but believed pay policy should be “realistic and flexible”.