Unions want capital gains tax, 36-hour week

The Swiss Trade Union Federation has presented two political initiatives aimed at reducing the working week to 36 hours and introducing a capital gains tax.

This content was published on December 14, 1999 - 12:35

The Swiss Trade Union Federation has presented two political initiatives aimed at reducing the working week to 36 hours and introducing a capital gains tax.

The documents were presented to the federal authorities as part of a first step toward a national vote on introducing legislation that would make Switzerland a “more socially just” country, as the trade unions say. Before a vote takes place, the Swiss government can present its own legislative counter-proposals, or it may decide to recommend a “yes” or “no” vote.

The trade unions would like to see the introduction of a capital gains tax of between 20 percent and 25 percent for individuals. Capital gains of up to SFr5,000 ($3,165) would be exempt.

The unions say many Swiss are angry about rich people getting richer and not having to pay tax on speculative stockmarket deals.

The so-called “36 hour initiative” in turn calls for a gradual reduction of the average 40-hour week to 36 hours. There should be financial support for those companies and businesses which speed up the reduction of work hours and help create new jobs, according to the union proposals.

The unions also want an end to what they describe as “overtime slave-driving” and instead support the idea of setting a cap on annual work hours, as opposed to weekly work hours. This, so the unions argue, would guarantee flexibility for industries in shaping their schedules in the course of the year.

Employers have been less than thrilled by the proposals.

The main employer’s organisation, the Swiss Federation of Commerce and Industry, rejects the introduction of a capital gains tax, saying the union’s idea of “social justice” is already in place as the Swiss pay tax on their wealth – a tax which does not exist in most member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Swiss employers also maintain that, judging by the experiences of other nations, a capital gains tax would not yield as much federal revenue as some might hope for. The introduction would also entail the introduction of unacceptably high additional bureaucracy, said a spokesman for the employer’s organisation.

From staff and wire reports.

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