On 28 November 2021, Swiss voters will be asked to decide on three proposals, one of them is particularly contentious.
The first is an initiative aimed at improving the working conditions of nurses. As the population ages the profession faces major challenges. In order to maintain high-quality nursing care a greater number of professionals must train. Conditions must also be created that allow nurses to remain in the profession longer.
This Nursing initiative calls on the federal government and cantons to do more to support of the profession to ensure universal access to high-quality nursing. There must be a sufficient number of registered nurses with professionals working in roles appropriate to their training and skills. The initiative also proposes that the federal government regulate working conditions and ensure appropriate compensation for nursing services. Nurses should also be able to bill certain services directly to health insurance companies.
The Federal Council and Parliament believe that the initiative goes too far and have put forward an indirect counter-proposal. Education and training would receive funding of up to CHF 1 billion over a period of eight years. Nurses would be able to bill insurance companies directly for certain services with a control mechanism in place to prevent healthcare costs and insurance premiums from rising as a result. Counter-proposals come into force if a popular initiative is rejected.
The government is moderately against this initiative. In parliament, 116 were against versus 74 in favour and 6 abstentions. In the Council of States the vote was 30 against with 14 in favour and no abstentions.
Under the current system, Parliament elects federal judges with elections taking place every six years. Parliament seeks to maintain appropriate representation for the political parties in proportion to their support among the electorate. The supporters of the initiative believe that this election process compromises the independence of the judiciary and makes it nearly impossible for those with no party affiliation to be elected as judges.
The judge initiative aims to introduce a new election process for federal judges. Instead they would be selected by lottery from a group of candidates chosen by a committee of experts. Candidates would be evaluated based on their professional and personal qualifications and chosen according to their suitability for judicial office. It would be a requirement that the official languages receive proportional representation on the federal courts. Federal judges could hold office for up to five years after they reach statutory retirement age. Judges would no longer have to stand for re-election as they do today. Parliament could dismiss judges only if they have seriously violated their official duties or are permanently unable to exercise their office.
The government is strongly against this initiative. In parliament, 191 were against versus 1 in favour and 4 abstentions. In the Council of States the vote was 44 against with no one in favour and no abstentions.
Amendment of the March Covid-19 Act
This is the most contentious and socially divisive of the three votes. The organisers would like to see the most recent amendments to the Covid-19 Act, which include laws allowing the implementing of Covid certificates, revoked.
The Covid pandemic required the Federal Council to take swift and wide-ranging action to protect people and businesses. Initially this involved partial recourse to emergency law. The Covid-19 Act that Parliament passed in September 2020 specifies which additional measures the Federal Council is permitted to take to fight the pandemic and how it should buffer the impact on the economy. The Act was adjusted several times in response to the crisis as it unfolded. In a referendum held on 13 June 2021, 60% of the electorate voted to approve the Act. The part of the Act concerning the adjustments Parliament decided on in March 2021 is now being put to a vote.
These adjustments expanded financial support to those affected by the crisis who had previously received little or no aid. Contact tracing to break the chain of infections was developed further, and the Confederation’s support for testing was established, as well as its ability to assume testing costs. The March adjustments also created the legal basis for the Covid certificate loathed by many supporters of the vote.
The government is strongly in favour of the Covid-19 Act. In parliament, 169 were in favour versus 13 against and 13 abstentions. In the Council of States the vote was 49 in favour with no one against and no abstentions.