Switzerland rejects corporate pay cap

Corporate Executive Pay Limit Rejected In Switzerland Voting

Voters in Switzerland today rejected a ballot referendum that would have put a cap on the pay of corporate fat-cats.

The measure lost in a landslide, as it was opposed by 65 percent of Swiss citizens who cast a ballot. If approved, corporate pay would have been limited to 12 times that of rank-and-file workers. Socialists, Green Party members, and labor unions supported the failed 1:12 initiative.

The business-friendly country is home to a number of major corporations, including some big drugmakers. The Guardian reported that “Employers had mounted a vigorous counterattack, claiming approval of the initiative would undermine Switzerland’s competitiveness, slash tax revenues and breach a taboo on giving the state a role in relations between employers and employees.”

Switzerland allows its citizens to vote on proposed changes to national law provided the advocates collect at least 100,000 petition signatures.

Earlier this year, voters in Switzerland approved a referendum that reined in golden parachutes for departing top executives. A minimum wage proposal goes to the voters in early 2014.

According to the BBC, the Swiss people have become outraged that some CEOs earn more than 200 times that of ordinary workers. Today’s vote was not an endorsement by the Swiss of the way some corporations throw around money irresponsibly or worse. It does appear to be a rejection of government intervention into pay practices of private businesses, however.

“Swiss Economic Affairs Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann hailed the result, saying it would allow the Swiss economy to remain competitive. But he urged big bosses to take note of the public outrage over some of their salaries, pointing out to reporters that ‘I do not appreciate the excessive salaries received by a handful of managers,’ ” AFP reported.

Had the measure — which supposedly would have only affected less than one percent of Swiss companies — passed, it is quite likely that affected corporations would have found loopholes or moved their headquarters outside of Switzerland, according to some observers. Schneider-Amman acknowledged that there would have been various ways to circumvent the 1:12 restrictions, and given the no vote on the proposal, “Switzerland stays attractive as a business location.”

Do you think it is a proper role of government to set maximum or minimum salary limits in the private sector?

[image credit: Londo Mollari]

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