27 Sep 2020 Geneva, Switzerland Votes For Minimum Wage

Some Minimum Wage History

In Switzerland low-paying jobs like waiting staff, cleaners, taxi drivers and others account for over 12% of the working population. This excludes the gig economy and competition for jobs and hiring remains very strong. 

In 2014 voters in Switzerland rejected plans for a nationwide minimum wage set at CHF22 an hour. Then it would have been the highest in Europe and many business leaders refused to back the initiative.

76.3% voted against the adoption of the minimum wage and voter turnout was just over 50% ( low voter turnout is an issue in Swiss politics).

The Swiss median hourly wage at the time was around CHF33.

The country’s trade unions pushed for the initiative because it would help reduce poverty and fight wage dumping (a big problem in Geneva and Basel) or in IT where firms bring in workers from abroad and pay them a lot less. 

Once the supporters realised that they had lost, the unions vowed to continue to battle on, they also realised their mistake. It was by seeking a Federal mandate they exposed themselves to cantonal level influences and votes in Zurich, Geneva and other larger populated “well-off” areas or cities.

Many union groups and the Socialist Party claimed success in that they had opened the door on the debate. The Greens said they would focus on change at a cantonal level which is why the vote success in Geneva is important. 

What happened in Geneva?

It Passes - A Win - Read More
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The official canton Twitter posted result.

Sunday’s vote show 58.2% of voters coming out in favour of the initiative proposed by the trade unions, Greens and others. 

The cantonal government as well as those political parties like the SVP and others on the right had recommended rejection of the proposal.

It was clear during the debates that the old 2014 arguments did not stand up to scrutiny.

Recent images of queues at food banks showed Geneva had a poverty problem and like many cities around the globe, some form of minimum wage intervention was required.

Geneva has some of the highest living costs in Switzerland and is only the third canton in Switzerland to introduce a minimum wage. 

So leaving the best bit till the end, the voters in the canton Geneva passed a proposal to introduce a statutory minimum wage of CHF23 per hour.

A CHF1 increase in the amount which was rejected in 2014.

Let us hope this minor victory will have the voters in Basel next year thinking a little deeper. Basel should consider the application of an inflation adjustment and push the boundary to CHF25 or broaden controls on the gig economy and zero hours contracts. 

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