In Zurich 13,000 people took to the streets in the biggest demonstration among marches in 50 cities across the country.
Worker groups seized the opportunity to hail the success of an initiative, approved by Swiss voters in March, to rein in pay for executives.
They also promoted future national initiatives that aim to provide minimum salaries and establish a 12 to 1 ratio between the highest and lowest wage earners.
Swiss residents deserve to have “the best salaries” and the “best pensions”, Christian Levrat, chairman of the Socialist party, said in a May Day video massage posted on the party’s website.
Around 2,000 people marched in Geneva, while 700 demonstrated in Lausanne.
The two Socialist members of the seven-member Swiss federal government appeared at different Labor Day events.
Speaking to 600 participants in a parade at Biel in the canton of Bern, Alain Berset, home affairs minister, spoke of the importance he gave to solidarity and the strengthening of social security, the ATS news service reported.
Simonetta Sommaruga, justice and police minister, broke with tradition and decided against making a speech, the news service said.
Instead, she visited PB Swiss Tools in Wasen, in the canton of Bern, where she talked to 160 employees.
She is quoted as saying that she visited a business that “confirms that equality of opportunity and integration are not simply are not only major social challenges but that they are also profitable values for businesses”.
May 1st is not a national holiday in Switzerland, although it is an official holiday in 11 of the country’s 26 cantons.