‘We come first’ Italy FURIOUS as Switzerland tries to block foreign workers in local jobs

ITALY has reacted with anger after a Swiss region voted to limit the number of foreigners working there.

Ballot box/Swiss flagGETTY/ANSA/EPA

People in the Swiss canton of Ticino have voted to limit foreign workers

The controversial referendum result means employers in the Ticino canton will be legally obliged to prioritise local workers over commuters who live in Italy but make the short trip over the border each day.The Ours First referendum was orchestrated by the populist right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and attracted 58 per cent of the vote in the Italian-speaking southern region.

It calls for changing the Ticino constitution to say if candidates for a job have the same professional qualifications, employers should chose those living in the canton over those living abroad.

Map of TicinoGOOGLE

Map of the Ticino canton

People from Ticino do not want to be intimidated by the European Union

Marchesi Piero

Supporters said the measures were put forward as a solution to problems surrounding low-pay and unemployment.And the President of the local section of Switzerland’s right-wing UDC party, Marchesi Piero, said: “People from Ticino do not want to be intimidated by the European Union.”

Roberto Maroni, leader of Italy’s Lombardy region and a member of the regionalist Northern League said he accepted the outcome of the Ticino vote but vowed to retaliate with “adequate counter-measures”.

In Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni stressed the referendum result would have no immediate practical implications.

But he warned: “Without freedom of movement of people, Swiss-EU relations will be at risk.”


A view of Ticino in southern Switzerland

Deputy Foreign Minister Benedetto Della Vedova said: “The anti-Italian choice made in Ticino does not respond to a rational choice but an emotional and ideological one: the ideology of nationalism, the walls against the foreigner”.The SVP had argued the Ours First initiative was designed to find a solution for the Ticino labour market while waiting for new employment measures at federal level to kick in.

Any constitutional changes in Ticino will have to be ratified by the Federal Assembly in Bern and will have to conform with national law.

Ticino State Council said changing the law will not be easy but announced it was setting up “a group of work to develop a piece of legislation that applies the new constitutional article”.


Rural Ticino shares a border with Italy

Swiss media also stressed Ticino needs Government permission before it can change its constitution, something that is far from assured as Bern struggles to repair strained relations with the EU.MPs are still trying to thrash out how to apply a decision voted through at a national level two-and-a-half years ago that would curb immigration from the EU.

Of 200,000 jobs in the canton, 63,000 are held by cross-border workers, according to figures obtained by Swiss public broadcaster RTS.

Unemployment stands at 3.2 per cent in Ticino compared with 3.1 per cent for Switzerland overall.

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