Swiss Showing the World How to Take on Pay Inequality

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Above: A truck dumps five cent coins in the centre of the Federal Square during a an event organised by the Committee for the initiative “CHF 2,500 monthly for everyone” (Grundeinkommen) in Bern October 4, 2013.  The initiative aims to have a minimum monthly disposal household income of CHF 2,500 (US$ 2,700) given by the government to every citizen living in Switzerland.        REUTERS/Denis Balibouse.

A growing movement against pay inequality

There’s a growing movement in Europe against pay inequality and the right for a basic income.

Switzerland is one of Europe’s richest countries but does not have a minimum wage law.

Swiss activists submitted more than 100,000 signatures needed to get a vote on a guaranteed income Friday, October 4, 2013. In a symbolic gesture, they dumped a truckload of 8 million five-cent coins outside the parliament building in Berne, one for every Swiss citizen.

Swiss activists submitted more than 100,000 signatures needed to get a vote on a guaranteed income Friday, October 4, 2013. In a symbolic gesture, they dumped a truckload of 8 million five-cent coins outside the parliament building in Berne, one for every Swiss citizen.

But growing public activism over pay inequality since the 2008 financial crisis has already led to two referendum drives on CEO pay.

In March 2013, Swiss voters overwhelmingly passed one of the world’s strictest controls on executive pay, forcing public companies to give shareholders a binding vote on compensation. Voters ignored the business lobby’s claim that such curbs would undermine the country’s investor-friendly image.

Next month, November 24, a separate proposal to limit monthly executive pay to no more than what the company’s lowest-paid staff earn in a year, the so-called 1:12 initiative, faces a popular vote.

Now, on Friday, Swiss activists submitted over 130,000 signatures to the Swiss Parliament likely forcing another referendum – this one to create a new law guaranteeing all Swiss nationals a basic income of CHF 2,500 a month ($2,756 US).

Under Swiss law, citizens can organize popular initiatives and the Swiss Parliament must address or hold a referendum over any issue which has gathered more than 100,000 signatures.

After submitting the signatures to Parliament, the activists dumped a truckload of 8 million five-cent coins outside the Parliament building in Berne, one for every Swiss citizen.

Enno Schmidt, founder of Generation Basic Income Initiative, said that he believes the Swiss government should be concerned about the groundswell of support for income equality. He opines that the country’s politicians are angry “because now they have to look into this initiative.”

The date of the vote has yet to be announced.

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Each 8 Mio five-centime pieces represented each habitant in Switzerland