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Longer Annual Leave For Workers Voted Down In Swiss Referendum

Voters in Switzerland have rejected a proposal to extend the workers' mandatory annual leave from four to six weeks.

Final results of a national referendum held on Sunday showed that 66.5 percent of voters rejected the plan, with 33.5 per cent voting in favor.

The Federal Chancellery in Berne said only 45 percent of Swiss voters responded to the referendum called by the Swiss Trade Union Congress, Travail.Suisse.

Referendum is an important part of Switzerland's direct democracy system that often triggers changes to the country's laws and budgets. The Constitution allows a nationwide vote on any issue of public importance if it obtains the necessary 100,000 signatures of citizens who say they feel strongly about it.

Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, currently has the same four-week legal minimum holiday allowance as most of the countries of the 27-member bloc, but several rival economies, such as Austria, France, Italy and Sweden, have a five-week minimum.

The Swiss Employers' Association (SBA), which opposed longer annual holidays, said citizens had realized that "something which sounds nice at first, brings many disadvantages on closer look."

The business community had expressed concern that a change in leave rules would cost billions and prompt companies to relocate to countries like Germany. Trade unions expressed their disappointment over the proposal being voted down by a large majority.

Some other regional referendums were also held in Switzerland on Sunday. Voters in Zurich agreed to the creation of "sex boxes" for prostitutes, which allows special parking spaces with walls between them where sex workers can ply their trade away from suburban areas in the country's largest city.

Residents voted to tighten restrictions on unauthorized street demonstrations in Geneva, and to impose tougher fines for those who violate the rules. The Swiss city is a base of many major international organizations, including the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Committee of the Red Cross, making it a focal point for protesters.

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