Further referenda held on 18 May 2014
The trade unions suffered a major setback as their minimum wage initiative was overwhelmingly quashed with 76.3 percent voting against it. The proposal had sought to set the statutory minimum wage at 22 Swiss francs an hour or around 4,000 francs a month. The trade unions did not even succeed in fully mobilising potential left-wing voters as the initiative was rejected even more emphatically than the Young Socialists’ 1:12 initiative against top salaries last November. The majority of Swiss people are clearly opposed to state intervention in salary policy.
On the other hand, the new constitutional article which obliges federal government and the cantons to ensure the provision of basic medical care by promoting general practitioners was overwhelmingly adopted with 88 percent of votes cast for it. The issue had initially been raised by an initiative put forward by the medical profession which was later withdrawn in favour of a Federal Council counterproposal.
The paedophile initiative also addressed an issue of widespread concern. It was approved by 63.5 percent of voters. Anyone convicted under the law of sexual offences against children or dependents will automatically be prohibited from working with children for life in future. Those opposed to the proposal, who contested that it was disproportionate, failed to convince the electorate with their arguments.
The issue of nuclear power appeared on the referendum agenda for the first time since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, albeit only in the canton of Berne. A popular initiative had sought to immediately decommission the 40-year-old Mühleberg nuclear power plant near the city of Berne which constantly faces criticism over sometimes serious safety deficiencies. The proposal was nevertheless rejected by 63.3 percent of voters. Bernische Kraftwerke (BKW) had already decided before the referendum to close down the reactor in 2019. In the wake of Fukushima the Federal Council resolved to withdraw from nuclear power in principle, but the new energy policy is only at the draft stage. JM