More than two-thirds of Swiss voters came out on Sunday in favour of a new law that would allow shareholders to decide what salaries the top executives should get, and get rid of “golden handshakes” – bonuses for top managers departing or arriving on the board.
The result prompted several German politicians to come out in favour of a similar law not only in Germany, but in Europe.
“The referendum is an important step in the right direction,” Joachim Poß, deputy parliamentary leader for the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), told the Neue Osnabbrücker Zeitung. “The result should be understood as an encouragement for the introduction of a European directive.”
Poß admitted that the Swiss law could not be imported wholesale as it is, but the principle was important. “People no longer accept this perverse bonus system that exists not only in banks but in industry generally,” he said.
Michael Fuchs, economic policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, also welcomed the Swiss initiative. “It’s a way of making sure that salary decisions are made by the owners of companies, not by the state,” he told the Bild newspaper.
“There is no explanation other than greed for the fact that a DAX board member earns 54 times as much as a worker,” Katja Kipping, head of the socialist Left party told the WAZ newspaper group. She said that Germany needs a debate on the “limits of inequality.”
Gerhard Schick, finance policy spokesman for the Green party, also called on the German government to send a signal. “We need stronger rules against salary excesses in Germany,” he said.