The ninth annual study by trade union group Travail Suisse showed that while salaries for executives at Switzerland’s biggest companies leveled off in 2012, those for top brass at other firms rose significantly, increasing the disparity with those on the bottom rungs.
The ratio of average wages at the executive committee level compared to those at the bottom was 124 to one at Roche, the Basel-based pharmaceutical giant, topping the list of 27 companies studied by the union.
Ten years ago, the ratio at the drug maker was less than 65 to one, the study showed.
Other companies with pay ratios of 100 to one or more included Novartis, another drug company based in Basel, and the country’s biggest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse.
Swiss companies such as Lonza (chemicals and biotechnology), Clariant (chemicals), Kuoni (travel), George Fischer (pipes, automotive parts and machinery) and Oerlikon (machinery) saw the salaries of top managers double or almost triple between 2002 and 2012, the union said.
“This unbridled soaring of the highest salaries is even more incomprehensible given that the economic returns for these companies was rather modest during this period,” Travail.Suisse said.
Such inequitable sharing of revenues is leading to a “growing loss of confidence of the population in the objectives and approach of the economy”.
Of the companies studied, only Coop, a cooperative group that is the second largest retailer in Switzerland, had a 12 to 1 ratio for wages.
Swiss voters in November will decide on an initiative promoted by the Young Socialists, the youth wing of the Social Democratic Party, to require Swiss companies to introduce a 12-to-one ratio for maximum and minimum pay.
The “initiative for fair Pay” follows approval in March by voters for the Minder initiative which requires a binding vote of shareholders on company pay, plus a ban on golden handshakes and transfer bonuses.
The initiative was named after businessman and independent politician Thomas Minder who spearheaded what was also known as the “rip-off initiative”.