• Italiano

These days, the success of the cantonal initiative “Our people first”, promoted in Ticino, Switzerland, by the populist forces UDC and the League of Ticino has been making headlines, along with the referendum proposals, that is, to introduce a privilege for local workers over foreigners.
It comes as no surprise that voices are raised – thinking mainly of the Italian border, in the territory between Mendrisio to Gottardo. For years now, discomfort was in the air there towards the so called “badini” or the “blue”, as Italians are called there in a derogatory way, who are accused, on and off, of stealing jobs or clogging the streets of the canton. In the last two years, the issue of immigration, even professional, has reached a quite worrying level, although it is more a question of attitude than of substance.
After the vote on the national initiative of February 2014 concerning a limit of the number of foreigners on Swiss territory, even temporary, on Sunday, September 25, the inhabitants of the Republic and Canton of Ticino have expressed themselves on a discriminatory principle concerning new staff recruitment that would protect the native population. In practice, it would impose on employers, in case of equal qualifications and professionalism, to choose new workers among the inhabitants of the canton over foreigners.
If we put it this way, it may actually appear as a common sense initiative, aimed to protect the local population from the wage dumping phenomenon, which seems to be generated by the Italian citizens who live in Italy, but work in Switzerland, who that would cause the lowering of wages. Such norms are already being applied in other states, such as in the Republic of San Marino where laws in this regard are much more structured and restrictive but, in effect, it is a political vote, a symptom of a distorted perception the inhabitats of Ticino.
The initiative has a direct impact on the Constitution of the State, significantly changing several points, and introducing principles that would put a smile on the face of many lawyers.
It ranges from establishing that the Canton must “control” the treaties concluded by the Confederation (Article 4) on the introduction of the principle of preference of the native worker (article 14, second paragraph) on a claim to limit the sovereignty of foreign states in sign of a reciprocal obligations under the international treaties concluded with the federal government, which would not be applied in the canton of Ticino (art. 14, third paragraph, and art. 49, second paragraph), due to a dutiful and correct norm against wage dumping (art. 50, second paragraph).
After an in-depth analysis, we understand that the wording of the initiative, which will force a constitutional change, is quite vague and it will be difficult to implement it because it would go against the federal Constitution, in particular against the Article. 8, where is enshrined the principle of non-discrimination, as well as against the Articles. 166 and 184 that establish the competence of ratification of international treaties. Moreover, the institution of “frontier workers” is one of the most important resources of Ticino’s economy, foreign investments. The wellbeing of this region largely depends on the input of foreign workers.
Frontier workers often bring not only workforce – which is often qualified -, but important resources come from their taxes that fund local services, which they do not enjoy, and that can be provided with much greater coverage, to the residents. A study by UBS, conducted some years ago, emphasized how important the contribution of Italian workers in Ticino and how much even the employment level was the son of this particular economic structure.
The reference to the level of employment, in fact, has a fundamental importance in this case: the unemployment rate in Ticino is about 3.1%, well within the range of what is called the frictional unemployment rate (between 3 and 4%), which can hardly be lowered even more, since on average it represents the number of persons looking for their first job or who are temporarily unemployed, switching from one occupation to another.
The feeling that foreign workers “steal” jobs is entirely unjustified. These workers push down the unemployment rate, creating needs that must be met, hence new jobs. As you might have noted, instead, over the course of time, the arrival of skilled workers and professionals has led the frontier workers to occupy positions of higher level than the classic manual laborer or a cashier at Migros, creating, perhaps, some disappointment among the population, but this is the labor market everywhere. You cannot block the search for professionalism with a populist initiative. That is certainly most of Ticino inhabitants thought, considering that they deserted the poll stations: only 45% of those entitled to vote have actually done so.
We say, therefore, that the result of this vote, which prompted many headlines of the major Italian newspapers, is more a political act than a true closure, it was an initiative that has applied to an important institution of direct democracy, that is to the principle of click baiting to gain visibility by driving forces, but which do not lead to any concrete effects in the future, because the limitation of the free movement of persons (including on a working level) is a clause of the Free Trade treaties lapse with the European Union, which would cause a possibly fatal damage to the economy not only of that Canton, but of the whole of Switzerland.
What is certain is that considering the situation that reigns there, this result gives food for thought.

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