Swiss voters reject '1:12' proposal to cap top executives’ pay in latest referendum

 

Swiss voters today overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to limit the pay of top executives to 12 times the wages of their lowliest employees.

The referendum result flew in the face of opinion polls suggesting that Swiss people have been angered by the explosion in the earnings of senior management in recent years.

The so-called “1:12” proposal was rejected by a margin of around two to one. Supporters of the initiative pointed ruefully to a campaign by big business to convince voters that a pay ceiling would destroy Switzerland’s international competiveness and drive out many  multinational companies.

They said that the 1:12 proposal was defeated by a 1:40 disparity in pre-poll advertising – a modest Sfr200,000 (£136,000) spent by the “Yes” campaign and a crushing Sfr8m for the “No”.

“Of course we’re disappointed,” said David Roth, leader of the Young Socialists, who had devised the proposal for the most stringent controls on top pay in any Western democracy. “Our opponents succeeded in making people afraid.”

Mr Roth insisted, however, that time, and the growing anger of ordinary people, would prove the proposal to have been justified. “There can be no future for an economic system based on salaries in the millions, on financial speculation,” he said. The head of the Swiss employers’ association said that he was “relieved” that the proposal had been soundly defeated. “This is an important decision for Switzerland as a business location,” Valentin Vogt said. “The people have decided clearly that setting salaries in this country is not a matter for the state.”

The gfs.bern polling organisation said that counting completed by mid-afternoon suggested that the 1:12 proposal had been defeated by a margin of 66 per cent to 34. To become law, a referendum proposal needs a majority of voters and cantons. Completed results from the first 20, out of 26, cantons were all heavily in favour of “No”.

The result contradicted the spirit – but not the letter – of Swiss referendum decisions in March to give shareholders more say on executive pay and to ban one-off bonuses such as large “golden hellos” and “golden goodbyes”.

The pay debate has since been heated by the decision of the Swiss drug group Novartis to pay a “golden gag” of Sfr72m (£49m) to its outgoing chairman, Daniel Vasella, not to work for rival companies.

Switzerland prides itself on being ultra-competitive but also on being a socially stable country without the extreme class disparities seen elsewhere. The country is the headquarters of giant multinationals ranging from the Roche pharmaceutical group, to household names such as Nestlé and Procter & Gamble and big financial players such as UBS and Credit Suisse.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before