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Swiss Voters reject salary cap for nation's top earners

Voters in Switzerland have rejected a move to limit the salary of companies' top executives. The referendum asked whether it should be capped at 12 times the salary of their lowest earners.

Swiss voters rejected the so-called "1:12" initiative on Sunday, brought to bear by the Socialist Party, plus the Greens and Swiss trade unions.

All of Switzerland's 26 cantons and a total of 65.3 percent of voters were against the measure, according to final results released by public broadcaster RTS.

Had it passed, the referendum would have seen the introduction of a legally-binding cap on bosses' pay so they were no longer able to receive more than 12 times the salary of their lowest paid workers.

Its backers, who were able to initiate the plebiscite after collecting more than 100,000 signatures, had said the law would ensure fairer pay. They argued that bosses' salaries in 2011 were on average 43 times higher than those of their lowest paid employees.

Opposition from business community

Sunday's referendum came amid growing discontent among certain groups in Switzerland over perceived corporate greed. In March, voters overwhelmingly approved new rules to boost shareholders' say on executive pay and ban one-off bonuses known as golden handshakes.

Nevertheless, the days leading up to the vote had suggested the cap on salaries was unlikely to find majority approval, with just a third of voters in a recent opinion poll saying they would back it.

It was also met with considerable opposition from Switzerland's business community and political right, who argued it would weaken the nation's competitiveness. Among the most notable opponents was Swiss president of world soccer's governing body FIFA, Sepp Blatter, who warned the measure could seriously damage Swiss soccer.

Switzerland's cross-party government had also urged a "no" vote, arguing the law would restrict tax revenues and scare off foreign firms.

In an interview with news agency AFP, Christoph Darbellay, head of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party, said he could understand the disquiet over "undeserved salaries."

But voting "yes" would be tantamount to "shooting ourselves in the foot," he said.

ccp,dr/tj (AFP, AP, dpa)