Switzerland rejects world's highest minimum wage

A man arrives to casts his ballot during a referendum on May 18, 2014 in Bulle, western Switzerland The proposal "to protect equitable pay" was the most prominent of several referendums

Related Stories

Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce what would have been the highest minimum wage in the world in a referendum.

Under the plan, employers would have had to pay workers a minimum 22 Swiss francs (about $25; £15; 18 euros) an hour.

Supporters said the move was necessary for people to live a decent life.

But critics argued that it would raise production costs and increase unemployment.

The minimum wage proposal was rejected by 76% of voters. Supporters had argued it would "protect equitable pay" but the Swiss Business Federation said it would harm low-paid workers in particular.

The issue was the most prominent of several referendums held on Sunday.

A man casts his ballot on May 18, 2014 in Bulle, western Switzerland, during a referendum on minimum wage Votes were held on a number of issues with the minimum wage attracting the most attention
A member of the Swiss UNIA workers union sets a ribbon around a petrol pump during a protest at a filling station Most of Switzerland's low-paid workers operate in the service industry
A campaign poster against the Swedish fighter jet Gripen is seen in Geneva (7 May 2014) Critics of the proposed $2.8bn purchase of the jets made by Saab say that it requires cost cuts in other key policy areas such as education

A controversial plan to buy 22 Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets for the Swiss Air Force was narrowly rejected by 53% of voters.

Meanwhile, 63% of voters backed a plan to impose a lifelong ban on convicted paedophiles working with children.

But it was the trade union-backed proposal to ensure that an annual salary was not less than £32,000 ($53,600) a year that provoked the most debate.

line break
Imogen Foulkes
Analysis: Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Geneva

This was the third referendum on pay in Switzerland in the last 18 months, reflecting concern that the gap between rich and poor is growing here too.

Last February the Swiss backed restrictions on bosses' bonuses, but in November they rejected even stricter controls which would have limited top salaries to no more than 12 times that of the lowest paid.

The vote is a sign that Switzerland's long tradition of social partnership between business leaders and workers may be eroding: the bankruptcy of national airline Swissair over a decade ago, the disastrous losses suffered by the big Swiss banks in the subprime mortgage scandal, and the huge salaries and bonuses which continue to be paid in the banking and pharmaceutical industries have led many Swiss to lose trust in their business leaders.

line break

Unions argued that the measure was necessary because of the high living costs in big Swiss cities such as Geneva and Zurich.

The unions are angry that Switzerland - one of the richest countries in the world - does not have a minimum pay level while neighbouring France and Germany do.

Swiss monthly living costs

  • One-bed city centre flat: 1,800 francs
  • Utilities: 100-200 francs
  • Health insurance: 300-400 francs
  • Public transport: 50-70 francs
  • Restaurant meal for two: 100-150 francs

They argue that surviving on less than 4,000 francs a month is not possible because rents, health insurance and food are all prohibitively expensive.

The minimum wage in Germany will be 8.5 euros an hour from 2017.

A key element of the campaign in favour of a minimum wage was the argument that the Swiss welfare system was being forced to subsidise businesses which refuse to pay a living wage.

But business leaders and the government said low unemployment and high standards of living for the majority showed there was no need for change.

Small businesses, in particular Swiss farmers, were especially worried that being forced to pay their staff 4,000 francs a month would price their products out of the market.

Most of Switzerland's low-paid workers operate in the service industry, in hotels and restaurants, and the majority of them are women.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    08:12: WHITBREAD
    General view of cup from a Costa Coffee shop,

    Revenue for the owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn was up 13% to £1.29bn for the six months ended 28 August. Whitbread chief executive Andy Harrison said: "The trading momentum of our strong first half performance has continued into the first few weeks of the second half and positions Whitbread well to deliver full year results in line with expectations."

     
  2.  
    08:00: GKN RESULTS

    GKN, which makes parts of planes and cars, said sales fell of the third quarter - that's July to September - but profit rose. A stronger pound than last year caused much of the lost revenue. For the rest of the year, the motor and aerospace market will grow, while agriculture "looks set to continue its recent decline," it says.

     
  3.  
    07:50: ARM CHIPS BBC Radio 4

    Simon Segars the boss of chipmaker ARM is on the Today programme. He says lots of companies license his firm's tech so he's not worried about competition from the likes of Intel, which is now targeting ARM's market. "Competition is a good thing," he says. He adds: "History has shown the technology solution that we produce is the one that goes into most devices. Virtually every smartphone in the world uses an ARM processor". So, safe to say he's not worried in the slightest then.

     
  4.  
    07:35: ASOS PROFITS DOWN
    ASOS webpage screengrab

    Online retailer ASOS has reported as 14% slump in profits to £46.9m. Last year ASOS reported profits of £54.7m. There are no surprises here, though. The firm has previously warned "disruption" from investment in warehousing and the launch of its new business in China would hurt profits and that remains the case. Boss Nick Robertson says the firm is "in a period of major investment that comes at a short term cost, but the medium-term benefits will be significant."

     
  5.  
    07:20: ARM CHIPS
    chip

    ARM, which could well make the chips in your mobile phone, says it made $320m (£195.5m) of sales in the third quarter, up 12% compared with last year. It will probably sell $350m in the final three months of the year, it said.

     
  6.  
    07:10: RECKITT RESULTS
    Reckitt Benckiser products

    Reckitt Benckiser says it now expects full year revenue growth at the lower end of its total revenue growth target of 4-5%. The firm "delivered a robust performance in tougher markets in the third quarter" it said.

     
  7.  
    07:00: CHINA GROWTH BBC Radio 4

    China's economy grew by 7.3% in the three months to September, compared with expectations of 7.2%. But it's still the lowest growth in six years. The BBC's Chief Business Correspondent Linda Yueh tells the Today programme Chinese monetary policymakers want to slow the Chinese economic growth gradually and allow the rest of the world to get used to it. China is becoming a "middle income economy" she says and will revert to a normal path for a developed economy over time of around 3% to 4%.

     
  8.  
    Via Twitter Linda Yueh Chief business correspondent

    tweets: My interview with CEO of Oscar de la Renta fashion house, Alex Bolen, from Talking Business

     
  9.  
    06:41: ENGINEERING SKILLS Radio 5 live

    We don't have enough engineers in the UK or scientists for that matter argues Ann Watson of Semta, an engineering skills charity, on 5 live. She says: "We need a million scientists, engineers and technicians by 2020, We are starting to see a shortage in education; people training those recruits." The perception of engineering as a "dirty, oily industry" doesn't help, she says.

     
  10.  
    06:30: STOCK MARKET Radio 5 live

    Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank is on 5 live talking about the falling stock market. "If we see stocks fall more we may see companies bargain hunting," she says. So more firms may start purchasing each other.

     
  11.  
    06:21: HEATHROW TRAVEL Radio 5 live
    heathrow

    Travel writer Simon Calder is on 5 live talking about the weather. He says he sees about 50 weather-related cancellations at Heathrow, so perhaps about 5% of flights so far. Flights to Frankfurt look hard to come by, he says.

     
  12.  
    06:12: FLIGHTS CANCELLED

    Heathrow airport has said this morning that around 10% of flights will be cancelled today as the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo hit the UK. Flights with the 20 biggest carriers would be affected, it says. British Airways has already cancelled some ahead of the expected severe weather. The remains of the hurricane are predicted to bring heavy rain and gusts of up to 75mph in some areas, causing disruption to rush-hour travel. If you're travelling today it's worth checking before you arrive at the airport.

     
  13.  
    06:02: TOTAL CEO DEATH Radio 5 live

    Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of French oil company Total, has died in an air crash in Moscow. Sarah Rainsford, the BBC's correspondent in Moscow says poor weather with low visibility is a possible cause of the crash. His plane crashed when it collided with a snow-clearing machine killing him and three crew, she tells 5 live.

     
  14.  
    06:01: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning! Get in touch via email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on twitter @BBCBusiness.

     
  15.  
    06:00: Matthew West Business reporter

    Morning folks, we have the latest public borrowing figures out at 9:30 today. But before that we have full year results from online retailer ASOS, and interim figures from Whitbread, plus the weather is promising to play havoc with the transport network today with 10% of flights out of Heathrow already cancelled this morning. We'll bring you everything as it happens.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • Ade Adepitan at the ColosseumThe Travel Show Watch

    The challenge of providing disabled access at Europe’s leading ancient monuments

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.