Swiss block world's highest minimum wage

Switzerland has voted against a minimum wage that would have been the highest in the world. Photo/ Getty Images
Switzerland has voted against a minimum wage that would have been the highest in the world. Photo/ Getty Images

Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have introduced the world's highest minimum wage, early results from a referendum indicate.

About 77 per cent of voters cast ballots on Sunday against the measure that would have set an hourly minimum wage of 22 francs, Swiss broadcaster SRF projected.

A wage at that rate would have equated to $28.55 in New Zealand dollars, just over double the current New Zealand adult minimum wage of $14.25 an hour.

The referendum was launched by left-wing parties and trade unions, which argued that such a salary was necessary for making a decent living in Switzerland, where the cost of living is among the highest in the world.

The government and employers associations had campaigned against the plan, warning that companies would shift operations to neighbouring countries and Switzerland's important tourism sector would suffer.

"This is a great success,'' said Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Swiss trade association, told SRF.

"This is a clear endorsement by the people for the economy and the system to negotiate the wages between employer and employee.''

Voters previously backed employers when they opted against extending annual paid holidays in 2012 and against capping manager salaries in 2013.

However, in another referendum last year, Swiss citizens supported a set of policies to stop what were perceived as excessive executive salaries.

In a separate referendum decision on Sunday, 54 per cent of voters narrowly rejected a government plan to modernise the air force by buying 22 Swedish Gripen jets.

Left-wing parties and groups had launched the referendum to stop the 3.1-billion-franc deal, arguing that the money would be better spent on education.

The gap between supporters and opponents of the Gripen deal narrowed in recent months, after a highjacking incident in February exposed the fact that existing Swiss fighter jets are only operational during office hours.

Conservative politicians had also pointed to the Ukraine crisis to make the point that Switzerland needed to be able to defend itself.

DPA goc/_AAP

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