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The Boston Globe

World

Swiss voters reject minimum wage, fighter jets

GENEVA — Worried about upsetting Switzerland’s strong economy or driving its high costs even higher, more than three-quarters of Swiss voters rejected a plan Sunday to create the world’s highest minimum wage and slightly more than half spurned a request to outfit the Swiss Air Force with 22 new fighter jets.

A tally by Swiss TV showed that with votes counted in all 26 of the Alpine nation’s cantons, the Swiss trade union’s idea of making the minimum wage $24.70 per hour fell by a vote of 76.3 percent opposed and 23.7 percent in favor.

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The proposal would have eclipsed the existing highest minimum wages in force elsewhere in Europe. Switzerland has no minimum wage, but the median hourly wage is about $37 an hour.

The military’s controversial request to spend $3.5 billion for Saab’s new Gripen fighter jets was narrowly defeated, with 53.4 percent against it and 46.6 percent who supported the purchase.

At a news conference in the Swiss capital Bern, members of the Federal Council of seven ministers, which includes the president, confirmed the vote results. They welcomed the decision on the minimum wage proposal.

Trade unions had proposed it as a way of fighting poverty in a country that, by some measures, features the world’s highest prices and most expensive cities.

But opinion polls had indicated that most voters sided with the council and business leaders, who argued it would cost jobs and erode economic competitiveness, driving Switzerland’s high costs even higher. ‘‘A fixed salary has never been a good way to fight the problem,’’ Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said in Bern.

‘‘If the initiative had been accepted, it would have led to workplace losses, especially in rural areas where less qualified people have a harder time finding jobs,’’ he said.

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