Supported by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the cantonal initiative entitled ‘Ours first’ demands Ticino go some way towards introducing the principles of the 2014 national referendum which approved the idea of quotas on immigration, “pending implementation at federal level”, says the text of the initiative.
Specifically, the SVP demands that when hiring staff, companies in Ticino give preference to Swiss workers over foreigners if they are equally qualified.
The aim is to prevent so-called ‘wage-dumping’, where foreigners are hired to do a job at a cut-price cost.
Ticino has historically had high numbers of cross-border workers, most coming over from Italy.
Until last year the number of ‘frontalieri’ in Ticino rose sharply, with more than a quarter of its labour force living over the Italian border.
Many locals feel that the situation has contributed to raising unemployment and lowering salaries for Swiss workers in the canton.
In 2014, Ticino raised taxes on frontalieri, and in April 2015 authorities imposed tougher conditions on cross-border workers including a requirement that Italian nationals supply a copy of their criminal record.
As a result, figures released earlier this year showed that Ticino was the only canton in Switzerland to see numbers of cross-border workers fall in 2015.
Many politicians in the canton are in agreement with the idea behind the SVP-Ticino’s initiative, reported news agencies on Friday, but feel it would not be feasible given it would be limited by current federal and cantonal laws.
As a result, the Ticino government is backing a counter-proposal which suggests the issue should be tackled at federal level as part of Switzerland’s ongoing discussions surrounding how to implement immigration quotas without contravening the EU principle of free movement of people.
The cantonal parliament backs a solution put forward earlier this year by ETH Zurich professor and former minister Michael Ambühl, which suggests temporary limits be put on immigration by region or by job sector should immigration cause problems in those specific areas.
Writing on its website the SVP rejected the counter-proposal, saying their own initiative was a “reflection of the clear NO to the free movement of people”, since Ticino voted overwhelmingly in favour of immigration quotas in the February 9th 2014 referendum.
The canton will also vote on another initiative aimed at curbing wage-dumping by increasing the number of inspectors in the employment market, an idea dismissed by many as too costly.