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Swiss reject 6-week vacation plan; Zurich says yes to 'sex boxes'

Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters, file

Employees place almonds on pralines Swiss chocolate producer Lindt & Spruengli's plant in Kilchberg in this April 10, 2008 file photo. The Travail.Suisse union said the referendum on the proposal to increase employees' annual minimum paid vacation entitlement had taken place at a bad time because of serious economic concerns surrounding the euro zone crisis.

Swiss voters rejected a proposal to increase employees' annual minimum paid vacation entitlement to six from four weeks on Sunday after firms warned it might hurt competitiveness and threaten jobs.

The initiative was put forward by trade union Travail.Suisse, which argued that four weeks' vacation was insufficient because the pressure of work had increased so much in recent decades, causing rising stress and health problems.


But Swiss television said initial figures showed the proposal had been rejected by a clear 67 percent of voters.

Referendums are central to Switzerland's political system of direct democracy, and have been held on topics ranging from health insurance to smoking bans.

In a separate referendum Sunday, people in Zurich voted for the creation of “sex boxes” -- places where prostitutes can work -- while Geneva residents agreed to restrict street protests, BBC News reported.

The “sex boxes” -- as they have been nicknamed by local people -- are parking spaces with walls between them where sex workers can operate away from suburban areas, according to the BBC.

The Swiss have a reputation in Europe for being efficient and hard-working, a trait that has helped the country attract international companies and do well in competitiveness rankings.

'Fear-mongering campaign'
The Travail.Suisse union said the referendum had taken place at a bad time because of serious economic concerns surrounding the euro zone crisis.

"For many voters, it was understandable that current concerns about their own jobs took precedence over the long-term welfare of people and Swiss business," it said in a statement. "With their fear-mongering campaign, the opponents of the initiative played with the uncertainty of workers."

The main employers' association, which had lobbied hard against the proposal, welcomed the result.

"The 'no' to the holiday [vacation] initiative means above all a 'yes' to the maintenance of the competitiveness of Swiss companies and the securing of jobs," it said in a statement.

"Adoption of the initiative would have pushed up already high labor costs in Switzerland and burdened business with additional costs of six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion) a year," the statement added.

Average Swiss vacation entitlement is already around five weeks, as many firms offer more than the statutory minimum. In 2002, Swiss voters rejected a proposal to cut the working week to 36 hours from 42 hours.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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