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ICEM Affiliates in Pharmaceutical Sector Strengthen Networking

7 November, 2011

The Action Plan of the ICEM World Conference for the Chemical Industries held in October 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey, defined developing and improving company and sector global and regional network activities as a key priority.

The Conference then endorsed the Secretariat to organize the first meeting of the ICEM Global Pharmaceutical Unions’ Network in consultation with the unions in the sector. As a result of this, around fifty representatives of ICEM affiliates in the pharmaceutical sector from Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey and USA met on 28 October in Geneva to discuss current developments in the industry and possible actions in the future.

The meeting received a detailed report from Kemal Özkan, ICEM Director of Industry and Corporate Affairs, on the global pharmaceutical industry, including an economic and social overview; and impacts of changing health care systems. The report showed that although patent expirations and limits on drug spending can hamper growth of drug sales in developed countries, global pharmaceutical sales are in a growth trend. A substantial rise comes from emerging markets, and the great majority of the expansion is driven by growth in China, the world’s third-largest market in the sector.

The participants shared their experiences from respective countries. “Due to low birth rate and an ageing population, the costs of the social security system including pension, health care and welfare have been rapidly increasing, which led to a need for reform of tax and social security systems” reported Naramato Masafumi, President of Karoken, Council of Chemical Workers’ Union of Japan, who spoke on behalf of Japanese unions.”

“Moreover, currently Japan has many problems affecting the socio-economy such as deflation, highly appreciated yen, increased non-regular employees, and the recovery from the devastating Great Earthquake and Tsunami,” said Naramato. In his report Ghosalkar Ravindra Govind, President of ICEM’s India affiliate Chemical Mazdoor Federation (HMS), underlined considerable changes in his country.

Naramato Masafumi, President of Karoken

“My country accounts for a relatively large share of the world’s disease burden. And while India’s burgeoning middle class has greater access to excellent healthcare, the vast majority of citizens still have limited access to basic care,” Ghosalkar stated. Other participants gave similar reports about their individual countries and companies.

The participants also largely discussed the current status of restructuring in the industry with mergers and acquisitions, and delocalization and closures of production and research facilities by multinational corporations.

The biggest sale of a private company was Japanese Takeda’s acquisition of Swiss pharmaceutical company Nycomed. As an immediate effect of the meeting, representatives of Takeda from Japan, Indonesia and Germany, in a side event, came together to establish a continuous cooperation and networking with each other.

The participants were also shocked to hear the recent announcement of Swiss-based company Novartis with two thousand job losses and two factory closures in Switzerland and Italy, which resulted in an immediate solidarity message to employees and unions there. Françoise Pierre of FCE-CFDT from France, secretary of the EWC of Sanofi Aventis, reported on a difficult situation at her company where management has announced more restructuring in research and development.

In the conclusions, the ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda mentioned that the network will continue to exchange information and company-level networking drives will be strengthened. It was also agreed to provide immediate solidarity with the unions facing challenges of restructuring. The network elected a representative of the Japanese unions as chairman, while the next meeting is scheduled for the second part of 2012 in Japan.