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CEOs get a reprieve

Voters in prosperous Switzerland delivered their verdict on a proposal to limit the pay of companies' highest-paid managers to at most 12 times that of their lowest-paid workers. (AP Photo/Keystone,Arno Balzarini,File)

Swiss voters have rejected a ballot measure that would have required companies to limit executive salaries to no more than 12 times as much as their lowest paid workers.

It would have meant that the CEO of Nestle, the Swiss food conglomerate, whose lowest paid employees make $53,000 thousand dollars a year, would have seen his annual salary drop from $13.8 million to $636,000 – still a nice salary, but a pay cut of 95 percent.

But he can relax: that won’t happen – the official results are in, and the pay cap lost with a “no” vote over 65 percent.

Even sympathetic Swiss executives wanted no part of the additional bureaucracy:

“In our company we have a 1-2-5 rule,” explained on exec. “We prefer to invest in creating new products.”

However, the Swiss are not entirely against controlling paychecks – last March voters easily passed a measure giving ordinary shareholders a say in what CEOs make – and activist Daniel Straub has managed to get another measure on the Swiss ballot, to raise the national minimum wage to about $2,800 a month.

“Imagine you were being born and society tells you ‘Welcome, you will be cared for,’ that’s a whole different atmosphere,” said Straub.

Of course the minimum wage in Switzerland is already about $2,400 a month, compared to a typical fast-food worker in the US who earns roughly $1,500 per month.

Plus the Swiss government already provides education expenses, retirement, 14 weeks paid parental leave. Plus I bet if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor – and all that delicious chocolate. Come to think of it, what in the world are the Swiss complaining about?

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