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EXPLAINED: What's the delay with Zurich's new minimum wage ?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What's the delay with Zurich's new minimum wage ?
Cleaning service employees would benefit from a minimum wage, supporters of the initiative say. Image by Simon Kadula from Pixabay

Even though in June Zurich voters said yes to a minimum wage of nearly 24 francs per hour, this move is now being challenged.


On June 18th, 69 percent of Zurich voters accepted a proposal put forth by trade unions and left-wing parties to introduce a minimum hourly wage of 23.90 per hour — which amounts to 4,000 francs a month. 

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, one of the groups that spearheaded the move.

The new wage was supposed to come into effect from 2024, but now it will take longer for this measure to be implemented — if it will be at all.

Why is the introduction of minimum wage being stalled?

This is because employers' associations have filed an appeal at the district court against this measure.

The reason for the appeal is “to know whether municipalities are legally allowed to enact minimum wages," Nicole Barandun, president of the Trade Association of Zurich, said in an interview with SRF public broadcaster.

"If every community has its own minimum wage, that will lead to absurd situations.”

"On one hand, there is the democratic process, but on the other hand there is the legal system,” she pointed out. “You can't simply vote on everything, and then when the majority says yes, the law is openly disregarded."

She was referring to the fact that there is no national legislation on minimum wage in Switzerland and, therefore, no legal basis for it — even though some cantons have such law on their books (read more about this below).


Why doesn’t Switzerland have a minimum wage?

In 2014, the country held a national 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.

In reality, most employers in Switzerland pay wages that exceed the asked-for minimum amount.

What is going to happen now in Zurich?

The introduction of the minimum wage will be delayed while the district court is weighing in on the appeal.

In the meantime, Zurich will not be able to implement this measure, and it remains to be seen whether it will be possible to implement it in 2024, as planned, if at all.


Where in Switzerland are minimum wages in place?

As a result of voting, five of the country's 26 cantons have introduced minimum wages ranging from about 20 to 24 francs per hour: Neuchâtel, Jura, Ticino, Geneva, and Basel City.

Things are more complex on a municipal level, however.

While cantons allow individual communities to  introduce minimum wages on their territories, none have done so to date.

Zurich’s would be the first one.

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


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