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Where in Switzerland is there a minimum wage and how much is it?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Where in Switzerland is there a minimum wage and how much is it?
Minimum wages are especially needed in low-paid jobs like cleaning services. Image by Simon Kadula from Pixabay

Unlike most European countries, Switzerland doesn’t have a national minimum wage. But five cantons and one municipality have gone against this trend.

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Even though its salaries are among the highest in the world, Switzerland is one of only five nations in Europe — the others being Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway — that has never introduced minimum wages nationally.

In 2014, Switzerland held a referendum on whether to set the minimum pay at 22 francs per hour, but the move was rejected by 76 percent of voters.

They heeded the government’s warnings that implementing a set wage would be detrimental to Switzerland’s prosperous economy, as it would raise production costs and jeopardise jobs by putting smaller companies— which cant’s afford to raise their workers’ wages — out of business.

However, the defeat of the minimum salary on the national level has not prevented individual cantons or municipalities from introducing their own rules.

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To date, several have done so.

At 24 francs, Geneva has the highest minimum hourly salary.

Next is Basel-City, which has set its wage at 21 francs an hour, while Neuchâtel and Jura set it at 20 francs, and Ticino at 19.75 francs.

These salaries, negotiated by unions on behalf of workers, reflect the cost of living in each of these regions, which explains why some wages are higher than others.

The latest newcomer is the city of Zurich, which is set to introduce a minimum salary of 23.90 francs / hour.

This wage is intended mainly for an estimated 17,000 low-income Zurich residents, two-thirds of whom are women.

The minimum salary "will relieve many of those affected by low wages in the city of Zurich – employees at fast food chains, cleaning companies, and those working in retail", said Oliver Heimgartner from the local Social Democratic Party which, along with other left-wing groups and trade unions, spearheaded the move.
 
READ MORE: 4,000 francs a month: Zurich set to introduce minimum wage 

Why aren’t more cantons / cities introducing minimum wages as well?

Aside from the widespread belief (as mentioned above) that a set wage harms the economy, the country already has strong labour laws which protect workers in terms of wages, work conditions, and other employment-related rights.

Additionally, the Swiss believe that fair and equitable pay is already guaranteed by collective bargaining agreements (CLA), contracts that are negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers.

They cover a minimum wage for each type of work, in addition to regulations relating to work hours; pensions; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

CLAs are sector-specific; in other words, they take into account the particular aspects of each branch. As an example, Switzerland’s largest labour union, The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (UNIA), maintains 265 collective agreements in the areas of industry and construction.

READ MORE: What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

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In fact, there is a push among legislators to scrap cantonal/ municipal minimum wages in favour of CLAs.

In December, MPs at the National Council, the parliament’s lower house, narrowly accepted a motion from their counterparts in the upper chamber — the Council of States — to do away with the minimum wages and to replace them with collective labour agreements.

If the Federal Council confirms the scope of application of the CLAs — in other words, that they do indeed supersede cantonal rules — minimum wage laws would no longer be valid.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland could scrap the minimum wage?
 
 

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