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Geneva and Basel to vote on ‘world’s highest’ minimum wage

On September 27th, Geneva will go to the polls to decide on implementing what would be the world’s highest minimum wage.

Geneva and Basel to vote on ‘world’s highest’ minimum wage

If implemented, the minimum wage of 23 francs per hour would be the highest anywhere in the world. 

This is well above the current highest minimum wage in the world, which is Australia’s $19.84 per hour (CHF13.15). 

Over a 40-hour work week, this adds up to 4,100 francs per month. The average wage in Switzerland is currently CHF6,500. 

READ: Minimum wage in Switzerland: What you need to know 

This will be the third time voters in Geneva are considering the question of implementing a minimum wage. 

A cantonal vote on implementing a minimum wage was knocked back by 54 percent of the electorate in 2011, while a similar vote at the federal level was rejected by 66 percent of the electorate in 2014. 

According to Swiss news outlet Le Temps, the coronavirus pandemic may play a key role in changing the outcome of the vote. 

Two Swiss cantons – Neuchâtel and Jura – have put in place minimums, while Ticino has recently approved a minimum via a referendum, but hasn't yet put it into law.

Basel will also go to the polls on a minimum wage of 23 francs, however a date for the vote has not been set. 

The vote will be held alongside five federal referendum questions. 

EXPLAINED: What's at stake in Switzerland's five referendums this month? 

That does not however mean that your employer is free to pay you as much – or as little – as he or she wants. 

Instead, the minimum amount you can be paid will be determined through negotiations with your employer which will may feature a trade union representative.

In Switzerland, minimum standards are not set by law, but by collective or individual bargaining with your employer. 

Generally, collective agreements will be negotiated by trade union representatives and will apply to an entire industry or in an entire canton, meaning that you yourself do not need to negotiate. 

There are however some jobs or industries – usually for jobs with higher incomes or which are less common – where negotiations will take place on an individual basis. 

These agreements will not just cover a minimum payment amount, but they will also set benefits, holiday pay and working conditions.

 

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COST OF LIVING

Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law. 

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