The Swiss will vote on a controversial minimum wage proposal of CHF 4,000 per month (CHF 22 an hour) at the next nationwide referendum on 18 May. The Swiss Trade Union Federation, which launched the initiative, is also calling for both Bern and the cantons to ensure that minimum rates become part of collective agreements. The retail sector is well-known for its poor pay and the unions are claiming that several companies, including fashion chain H&M, have already upped their basic minimum rate.
There is wide resistance to the proposal from both government and employers, especially farmers and hoteliers, who rely on seasonal labour. Farmers state that they cannot pay more. Their union, Suisse des Paysans, claims that most farmers themselves do not earn CHF 4,000 a month. Swiss employers argue that if the measures are introduced, they will be hampered by an uncompetitive burden. They may have a point. Recent minimum-wage proposals in the United States (CHF 9), France (CHF 11.50), and Germany (CHF 10.25) all fall well short of the proposed Swiss minimum wage, which would make it the highest in the world.
Yet the recent vote restricting excessive executive pay packages shows that the Swiss maintain a sense of balance and proportion when it comes to the best interests of nation’s economy. There are strong indications that the initiative will not succeed.
Update: this vote was rejected by 76.3% of Swiss voters.