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Switzerland

Swiss referendum turns down minimum wage and new fighter jets

Voters in Switzerland have rejected a proposal that would have introduced the world's highest minimum wage. They also turned down a plan to buy more than twenty new fighter jets.

The vote count by Swiss TV showed some 77 percent of voters and 24 of the Alpine nation's 26 cantons (states) rejecting the idea mooted by trade unions to create a minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs (20.22 euros, $24.70) per hour. Votes from the capital Bern and business center of Zurich are still to be announced.

Trade unions had argued the wage would be a way to fight poverty in a country known for its very high cost of living.

Business leaders had argued the minimum wage rate would cost jobs and erode economic competitiveness, driving Switzerland's high costs even higher. The median hourly wage is about 33 francs (27 euros, $37) an hour.

"This is a great success," said Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Swiss trade association, told Swiss television. "This is a clear endorsement by the people for the economy and the system to negotiate the wages between employer and employee."

Also on the referendum voting agenda on Sunday were three other questions. A plan to provide the Swiss Air Force with 22 of Saab's new Gripen fighter jets at a cost of 3.1 billion francs (3.5 billion dollars) was rejected by 52 percent of voters, according to television reports. Left-wing parties and groups had argued that the money would be better spent on education. Conservative politicians had maintained that in light of the Ukraine crisis, Switzerland needed to be able to defend itself.

Voters did give the green light to imposing a lifetime ban on convicted pedophiles working with children, and to an amendment of the constitution to support more family doctors in rural areas.

jm/tj (dpa, AP)

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