Saturday, October 12, 2013

Swiss set their sights on excessive corporate pay

The Swiss people are showing that citizens can organize and take action to address growing income inequality by placing restrictions and caps on executive salaries. 

Since the 2008 global financial crises Swiss citizens have set their sights on excessive corporate pay and rising income inequality.

Already public activism by the Swiss people on executive pay has forced two referendums and efforts are underway to force a third referendum. Under Swiss law citizens are able to organize popular initiatives whereby the Swiss Parliament must hold a referendum on any initiative that has gathered more than 100,000 signatures. 

In March 2013 the Swiss voted overwhelmingly to pass some of the strictest controls on executive pay, requiring that public company shareholders vote on compensation for executives.

In November 2013 the Swiss people will get a vote on another proposal to to cap and limit executive pay. The 1:12 initiative will limit executive pay to no more than 12 times the salary of the lowest paid worker. Compare that to the USA which has among the highest levels of income inequality in the world with a CEO to worker pay ratio of 185:1 and here in Australia where the CEO to worker pay ratio is 100:1

Unsurprisingly, corporations and business groups oppose the Swiss  1: 12 initiative claiming that it will abolish prosperity  and is an attack on freedom. Global multinational corporations like GlencoreXstrata  threaten to move their headquarters out of Switzerland if the proposal is passed.

Now Swiss citizens are trying to establish a guaranteed basic income for all citizens. 

On Friday Swiss citizen activists submitted over 130,000 signatures to the Swiss Parliament- enough to call a vote over whether or not to approve the proposal-  to create a law guaranteeing all Swiss nationals a guaranteed basic income of around $2800 per month.  In a public display of support, advocates of the measure tipped over a truck full of 8 million 5-cent coins (one for each citizen of the country.)

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