Why Swiss voted to maintain huge pay disparities
The questions raised by Switzerland’s 1:12 campaign are worth thinking about
The economic consequences of an alternative result could have been disastrous for a country with no pressing need to take risks. However, while the initiative itself always seemed doomed to fail, the questions raised by the campaign are very much worth thinking about.
The argument that businesses will simply go elsewhere if their freedom is imposed upon highlights the skewed balance of power between the state and the private sector.
In the context of the very generous help our State has given to that sector in recent times, the question of what the state and its people can ask for in return is very important.
When the average person’s take-home pay stagnates behind increasing profits in the corporate world, we have to ask if there’s a better balance to be achieved between the sacrifices made to get multinational industry – the likes of Google, Intel and Pfizer – to put down roots here, and the public reward for having them.
How much should these companies be putting back in to the countries that generate their wealth? Is mere employment, on the employers’ terms, enough, or should the state, as the people’s collective bargaining apparatus, be involved in making sure that any rising tides lift all boats fairly?
We also need to think about how can individual states work together to achieve this goal. With the mobility of modern capital in mind, we need fewer nations in competition with each other for corporate enterprise and more in solidarity against exploitation.
As we begin to hear talk of a supposed recovery, the ques- tion of how the health of the economy is measured is vital. Will it be by the well-being of business leaders or the people working for them?
More than ever, we need balance between what is good for shareholders and what is good for everyone else. The 1:12 referendum has at least got Swiss people thinking about these things.
If we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of decades past and ensure a better standard of life for those at the bottom as well as the top, then the Irish people and our Government will have to think long and hard about them too.