Balloons with the slogan 'No to the fighter jet billions!'
is seen outside the place where the 'Gripen referendum
committee' follow the results on the vote in Bern.
Swiss voters have rejected proposals to introduce the
world's highest minimum wage and spend $3.5 billion buying new
Gripen fighter jets from Saab.
About 76 percent of voters in the wealthy nation dismissed
the proposal made by Swiss union SGB and backed by the
Socialist and Green parties for a minimum wage of 22 Swiss
francs ($US25) per hour, final results showed.
Some 53 percent blocked a plan to replace Switzerland's aging
fleet of fighter jets with 22 Gripen jets from Saab. Just
over 55 percent of those eligible voted, the government said.
The clear rejection of the proposed minimum wage - which
corresponds to a monthly paycheck of 4,000 francs (about
$4,500) - brings relief to business leaders worried the
measure would have hurt competitiveness and damaged the Swiss
"If the initiative had been accepted, without doubt that
would have led to job cuts, particularly in remote and
structurally weaker regions," Swiss Economy Minister Johann
Schneider-Ammann said at a news conference.
Sunday's vote is the latest initiative addressing a widening
income gap in the generally egalitarian country. Voters
approved giving shareholders a binding say on executive pay,
but turned down a proposal to cap the salaries of top
executives at 12 times that of a company's lowest wage.
Despite Sunday's "no", Daniel Lampart, chief economist at
SGB, said the debate over the measure had led many companies
to raise minimum wages to more than 4,000 francs. Discounter
Lidl increased minimum Swiss salaries to 4,000 francs last
year; retailer H&M says it will follow suit next year,
although employers do not acknowledge a direct link to the
Swiss voters historically have vetoed what they feel are
threats to the country's economic success. But they
unexpectedly agreed in February to curb immigration from the
European Union and last year backed the proposal to give
shareholders a say over executive pay - ignoring warnings
from business both times.
NARROW GRIPEN DEFEAT
The "no" vote for the Gripen jets bucks historical support
for the military. Last September, the Swiss voted
overwhelmingly in favour of keeping military conscription.
The government had argued that Switzerland needed modern
fighters to support its armed forces.
"This decision will cause a security gap," Defence Minister
Ueli Maurer said. "We will do everything we can to fill this
gap in these difficult circumstances as quickly as is
Switzerland was embarrassed earlier this year when a hijacked
Ethiopian Airlines plane heading for Geneva had to be
escorted by French and Italian fighters because the incident
occurred outside business hours.
Although both the upper and lower houses of parliament backed
the deal, Swiss interest groups - including socialists,
Greens and the Group for Switzerland without an Army -
collected the 50,000 signatures needed to force a popular
Opponents had argued buying the jets was an unnecessary
expense, requiring cuts in other areas, such as education.
They also said the cost of keeping the jets in operation was
likely to spiral to at least 10 billion francs over their
The defeat is also a setback for Sweden's Saab, but analysts
have said they do not expect it to derail the future
development of the Gripen.
Saab has a framework deal with Sweden for 60 new-generation
jets for Sweden and potentially 22 for Switzerland, with
which it had hoped to share development costs. It now looks
to gain a partner in Brazil after Saab won a tender last year
to supply planes to the country.
Swedish Defense Minister Karin Enstrom said she regretted the
Swiss "no." Co-operation would have helped both countries,
she said, and Sweden still needed to develop its fighter jet
capacities. "We will have to analyse this and find a
(different) way forward," she told Reuters.
Saab said the development and production of the jets for
Sweden would continue. The Swiss order "was not something we
had booked in our order backlog. We will not change our
earnings forecast for this year nor our financial targets,"
Saab Chief Executive Hakan Bushke told Reuters.
Bushke said negotiations with Brazil were going well and he
expected to complete the deal this year.