Union raps Swiss executive pay rises

Top managers at large Swiss companies saw major pay rises in the past several years and continue to be overpaid relative to average workers, a union group charges.

Union raps Swiss executive pay rises
Photo: AFP

Remuneration for executives rose an average of 18 percent between 2011 and 2014 at three-quarters of major companies, Travail.Suisse said on Monday when it released its 11th annual report on management pay.

The hike in wages for those at the top came in spite of the Minder initiative, approved by voters in 2013, that was designed to curb excessive executive pay.

“The massive approval of the Minder initiative has not prevented the increase in salaries for top managers,” Jacques-André Maire, vice-president of Travail.Suisse told a press conference in Bern.

While some salaries have been reduced, pay levels generally continue at an extremely high level compared to what the lowest paid earn, the organization said.

The ten highest paid executives earned more than five million francs last year

The greatest pay gap last year was at Roche, the pharmaceutical giant, where outgoing chairman Franz Humer earned 15.38 million francs, 253 times as much as the lowest paid worker (61,000 francs a year) at the Basel-based company.

Roche’s CEO Severin Schwan earned 230 times as much as employees at the bottom, according to the Travail.Suisse figures.

Other executives with a pay ratio fo more than 200 to one included UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti (223 to one), Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke (218 to one) and Novartis CEO Joseph Jiminez (208 to one).

Travail Suisse listed 37 executives with pay ratios of more than 100 to one, with 11 of them working at UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, and another 11 at Credit Suisse, the second biggest bank.

Top managers from such companies as ABB, Swatch, Lindt & Sprüngli and Zurich Insurance also figured in the list.

Contacted by news agency ATS, the Swiss Employers Association declined to comment on the figures released by Travail.Suisse.

The association, instead, referred to official statistics that show the differences between the highest and lowest salaries have moderated in Switzerland compared to other countries.

Travail.Suisse’s report analyzed salaries at 27 large Swiss companies from publicly available data.

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Berlin offers women cheaper transport tickets for ‘Equal Pay Day’

For the "Equal Pay Day" on Monday, Berlin is offering women a cheaper local transport ticket to symbolize the pay gap.

Berlin offers women cheaper transport tickets for 'Equal Pay Day'
A woman in Berlin buys a special 'Frauenticket' on Monday. Photo: DPA

According to the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), the one-day 'Frauenticket' ticket is the world's first women's ticket.

It is supposed to cost 5.50, so it's around 21 percent less than the normal day ticket valued at €7. The discount is being given because women in Germany earn an average of 21 percent less than men, the BVG stated as justification.

While both men and women can purchase the ticket, a man would be treated as a “Schwarzfahrer” – or fare dodger – if caught using a woman's ticket, says BVG.

Those who buy an annual ticket on Monday receive the biggest savings: for 601.15 instead of 761, passengers can travel by bus and train across the capital city for a year. That means savings of just under 160.

For the annual ticket, the machine spits out a ticket that can be redeemed for the ticket in the customer centre. Payment is only possible with a card.

Critics have accused the BVG of injustice. “Of course the action is unfair,” says spokeswoman Petra Nelken. “But it's just as unfair not to pay women equally.”

SEE ALSO: Among Berlin's hard-up artists, gender pay gap is 'hidden scandal': study

The text on the ticket machine on Monday reads “Get your 21% women's ticket discount”. Photo: DPA

Behind Equal Pay Day

The “Equal Pay Day” marks the time until women have to work to earn the same income as men last year. If the lower pay is converted into days – 77 days – women work unpaid until March 18th this year.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, there was an average pay gap of 21 percent across all sectors and occupations. Women earn less because they are more likely to work part-time and in low-paid jobs – for example in the social sector.

When the same jobs are compared, women earn six percent less than men for the same work in Germany as of 2014.

SEE ALSO: Wage gap payback: Why this Berlin bike shop has slashed their prices for women

In Berlin in 2018, women earned about 14 percent less than men. According to the Berlin-Brandenburg Statistical Office, the gap has increased by one percentage point compared to last year.

In Brandenburg, on the other hand, the wage gap was only two percent.

To mark the day on Monday, there will also be several events centred on activism in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Various groups including the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) and the German Women's Council have called for a rally, which is taking place Monday morning on Pariser Platz under the motto “Right to More”.

SEE ALSO: In eastern Germany, the gender pay gap favours women