* Clear majority against increasing annual leave to 6 weeks
* Voters worried about impact on jobs
* Business had lobbied against longer holidays
By Emma Thomasson
ZURICH, March 11 Swiss voters rejected a
proposal to increase employees' annual minimum paid holiday
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 holiday 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.
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.
The Travail.Suisse union said the referendum had taken place
at a bad time due to 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 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 labour costs in Switzerland and burdened business with
additional costs of six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion) a
It had argued that longer holidays would hurt firms already
battling to cope with the impact of the safe-haven franc that
has soared since the financial crisis, driven in particular by
investors fleeing the euro zone.
Average Swiss holiday 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.
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 vote on Sunday, Swiss voters narrowly approved
a proposal to limit the building of holiday homes, which are
seen by many as a blight in Alpine villages.
($1 = 0.9190 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Andrew Osborn)