Good times over for corporate high earners? Everyone wonders if CEOs can possibly work hard enough to justify their fat paycheques. Others aren't content to wonder, and feel the Swiss people should vote on the issue. Swiss News takes a closer look at who's earning what, and talks to the businessman trying to put the brakes on astronomical salaries.

AuteurMirza, Faryal

Switzerland's top managers have come under attack from a family-business owner who says the Swiss public are sick and tired of hearing about their high wages and golden handshakes. Thomas Minder, CEO of Trybol Cometics, has gone as far as trying to bring about a nationwide vote on the issue to give people the final say on the topic.

His initiative to bring about a people's vote (Volksinitiative) is about ending what he calls the "tip-off' culture in companies quoted on the stock exchange. He says they foster secrecy about remuneration and intentionally leave their shareholders in the dark.

Minder says that the initiative has touched a public nerve and that he will collect the 100,000 signatures required within the stipulated time frame of 18 months. While he is reluctant to reveal exactly how many signatures he has collected to date, he mentions that the Swiss Kaderorganisation (or executives organisation) recently recommended that its 11,000 members sign and support the initiative.

The text of the initiative is asking for three things, says Minder.

New standard

"The management should not get a bonus for selling or buying a company. The second thing is no salary in advance. The third thing we would like to prohibit is the golden handshake," for departing executives, he explains.

Minder, like many other members of the Swiss public, was enraged to learn in 2002 that the last Swissair boss, Mario Corti, had taken an advance on his salary. This topped the scales at SFr 12 million as remuneration for five years' work that didn't happen because of the carder's grounding. Corti is now facing the possibility of a hefty fine and a jail sentence for his involvement in the debacle but that's a different story.

Unlike other members of the public, Minder was financially hit, as his company, Trybol--which makes cosmetics and toiletries--lost out on a lot of business due to Swissair's demise.

"We were getting a big order under the Corti era, which was not fulfilled as the company collapsed. When it came out later that Corti was taking all of his money in advance, this made us very, very angry that our invoice was not paid and this was really the last straw," Minder says.

The vote to stop executive cash-grabs was born.

Business support

And, given the inches of newspaper space garnered by the so-called Abzockerei-Initiative or popular initiative against rip-off salaries, it appears that Minder has captured the nation's attention.

This makes it all the more...

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