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Swiss Voters Reject Measure Curbing Executive Pay

Swiss voters rejected a measure on Sunday that would have capped executive pay to no more than 12 times that of the company's lowest paid worker.

As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reported, the ballot initiative was driven by the youth wing of the Social Democratic Party, which said that CEO pay has been increasing at an alarming rate. Twenty-five years ago, David Roth, head of the party's youth wing, told Eleanor, Swiss CEOs made six times more than the average worker. Today they earn 40 times as much.

The Swiss, however, voted against the measure in large numbers — 65.3 percent of them rejected the measure.

The AFP reports that in the lead-up to the referendum, the business lobby launched a massive campaign against the measure, warning that the so-called 1:12 law would lower tax revenue and make Switzerland less competitive in the business world.

The AFP adds:

"Their message got across: all of Switzerland's 26 cantons and a full 65.3 percent of all voters rejected the initiative, according to final results released by public broadcaster RTS.

"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.'"

The New York Times reports that supporters of the measure accepted defeat, but said the referendum did accomplish something big by bringing the issue of executive pay to the forefront of public debate.

"In the future, C.E.O.'s and boards of directors are going to have to think very carefully about how they justify multimillion-franc compensation," the Swiss Social Democratic Party told the Times.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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