An angry strike in Geneva, Switzerland has today been suspended by members of the Swiss trade union UNIA, fighting against Merck Serono’s plans to close the Geneva and Coisins sites, which threatens 1,500 jobs. Strike action has been put on hold, as regional authorities demanded that pharmaceuticals giant’s management participate in mediation on the social plan. Conciliation will begin on 3 July.
Speaking at an extraordinary General Assembly of UNIA members at Merck Serono in Geneva today, Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union told 500 workers “Your fight is our fight. You are not alone. If this problem is not resolved, we will continue to mobilize across borders to support your struggle!” The anger at the company’s proposals is compounded by the excellent profit margins posted and the recent 20 per cent increase in dividend payments to shareholders. The Merck group announced on 15 May profits of €152 million in the first quarter of 2012. IndustriALL Global Union strongly supports UNIA’s calls for Merck to put “Workers before Shareholders!”
On 19 June, following a nine-week struggle for alternative solutions to site closures, management announced its final decision, which disappointingly included almost no change and almost none of the proposals from UNIA. Small improvements to the social plan will only benefit 183 out of the 1,500 employees. This announcement was met with strike action last week, suspended by a Swiss authorities’ attempt to broker mediations.
According to UNIA’s Merck Serono rep Eric Deriaz even those workers offered relocation within the company are refusing, no longer wanting to work for a company that has behaved so badly, and who they can no longer trust.
A key proposal of UNIA’s Geneva Regional Secretary, Alessandro Pelizzari, and members, is for a centre for biotechnology research to be maintained in the region, protecting at least 300 of the jobs threatened with relocation abroad. This option now seems probable, thanks to the workers’ contributions to discussions within a Task Force on the issue.
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