HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Swiss Voters Turn Down Paid Maternity Leave
Pubdate: Mon, 14 Jun 1999
Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Page: A3
Copyright: 1999, The Toronto Star


But Approve State Distribution Of Heroin To Addicts

GENEVA (AP) - Turning their backs on a promise made to women more than
50 years ago, Swiss voters yesterday threw out government plans to
introduce paid maternity leave.

In a separate vote, they also endorsed state distribution of heroin to
hardened addicts by the unexpectedly small majority of 54 per cent.

The resounding rejection was a surprise as polls had predicted a close
call. It reinforced an image of Switzerland as a chauvinistic
stronghold, where women only got the right to vote in 1971.

Mothers with infants wept as results of the maternity benefit vote
filtered through. The final tally was just 39 per cent in favour and
61 per cent against.

``We're in total despair,'' said women's rights activist Christiane
Brunner. ``We worked years for this. What can we do now?''

The concept of maternity leave was introduced in the Swiss
constitution in 1945, but there were no concrete provisions on the
level of pay.

The proposal would have given working women 14 weeks of maternity
leave at 80 per cent of their salary, bringing Switzerland into line
with minimum European standards. It also would have given a lump
payment up to $4,000 to women with low incomes.

The outcome was also a snub for Switzerland's first female president,
Ruth Dreifuss, who waged a personal crusade to end the system in which
women are banned from working for two months after childbirth.

Parliament last year agreed on the proposed benefit at a cost of $500
million a year.

The drug vote outcome puts on a firm legal footing medically
supervised distribution of heroin to about 1,500 heroin addicts who
have repeatedly failed in efforts to kick their habit.

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