Voters in Ticino have approved a proposal to give residents in their canton priority on the labour market in an effort to curb the number of employees from neighbouring Italy.
The initiative by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party won more than 59.4% of the vote on Sunday. Turnout was 44%.
However, analysts say the proposal will be difficult to apply because it is not compatible with the Swiss constitution and could be in breach of international treaties, according to opponents of the proposal.
The initiative is subject to approval by the Swiss government and parliament.
The cantonal Ticino government and parliament recommended rejection of the initiative and presented a counter-proposal which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.
The initiative foresees that cross-border workers can only apply for jobs if there aren’t any equally qualified personnel resident in Ticino.
Supporters of the initiative said workers from Italy were putting pressure on salary levels as the Italian cost of living is lower than that of Switzerland.
The campaigners had collected more than 10,000 signatures to force a vote.
Ticino, a region with a population of 352,000 in southern Switzerland, has been a strong supporter of a nationwide initiative to re-introduce immigration quotas for citizens from the European Union, approved by Swiss voters in 2014.
After the vote, came the response from Italy. In a tweet, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni warned against such decisions that violate the EU’s crucial free movement of people accord. Gentiloni said that although the referendum had no "practical effect", “Swiss-EU relations are at risk without the free movement of people.”
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch with agencies