Tue, May 20, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Voters reject US$25 minimum wage for Switzerland

AFP, Geneva, Switzerland

Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a proposal to introduce the world’s highest minimum wage, which would have guaranteed every worker in one of the world’s priciest nations at least US$25 an hour.

A proposal to introduce a minimum wage was rejected by 76.3 percent of voters.

A series of Swiss referendums also saw voters nix a multibillion-dollar deal to buy fighter jets from Sweden and reject a lifelong ban on pedophiles working with children.

The overwhelming rejection of the “Decent Salary” initiative was widely seen as a slap in the face to its union backers, who insist that at least 22 Swiss francs (US$25) an hour, or SF4,000 a month, is needed to get by in Switzerland.

Switzerland would have gone from having no national minimum wage to boasting the world’s highest, above the US$7.25 in the US and 9.43 euros (US$12.94) in France.

However, the initiative flopped as voters heeded warnings from the government and opponents that it would stifle business and weaken the healthy Swiss economy.

Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann hailed the result, insisting the country had dodged a bullet.

Introducing the minimum wage, he told reporters, would have led to “layoffs” and made it “more difficult for people with few qualifications to find a job.”

Farmers, small business owners and employer organizations also welcomed the results.

While disappointed, Alessandro Pelizzari of the Unia union’s Geneva chapter insisted the campaign itself had had a very positive effect.

“We have never before seen in Switzerland so many companies raising employee salaries to SF4,000 as over the past months,” he told reporters, listing the Aldi and Lidle supermarket chains, along with fashion giants H&M and Bata.

Supporters of the minimum wage said it would have boosted the purchasing power of about 330,000 people.

“I really have trouble living on my salary... I have to give up a lot, and I often can’t eat properly,” said Portuguese hotel maid Alcina Esteves de Almeida, whose gross monthly salary is SF3,400.

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