Swiss voters reject longer paid vacations

Balloonists prepare their hot air balloons for takeoff in the Swiss Alps resort of Chateau d'Oex on January 28, 2012 during the 34th International Balloon Festival. Voters in Switzerland rejected a measure to increase their minimum paid time off to six weeks in March.

Swiss voters said no to more vacation time on Sunday, fearing the extra days off could hurt the country’s competitiveness and lead to job losses.

An estimated 67 percent of Swiss voters rejected a referendum measure that would have given them a minimum of six weeks paid vacation each year instead of the minimum four weeks they now get, Reuters reported.

Several European countries, including Denmark and France already offer workers six weeks of paid vacation in addition to certain paid holidays.

The trade union Travail.Suisse had been pushing for longer vacations, saying four weeks off wasn’t enough for Swiss workers to counter the increasing pressure, stress and potential health problems of the modern work environment.

“Most political parties, the business community and the government had warned the initiative would result in higher labor costs and be detrimental to the economy,” the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation said.

The director of the Swiss Union of Arts and Crafts, which represents 300,000 businesses, told the Associated Press the additional vacation time could have added $6.5 billion a year to labor costs.

The Swiss have developed a reputation for being among Europe’s most efficient and hardest working. Any increase in labor costs could have hurt their perceived competitiveness in the international marketplace.

The average Swiss worker actually gets about five weeks of vacation now since many companies offer their workers more than the minimum guaranteed time off, Reuters said.

American workers average about two weeks off a year. US employers aren’t required to provide any paid vacation or holidays.

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