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Unions protest plan by Novartis to shed 2,550 jobs

3 December, 2018Swiss-based pharmaceutical multinational Novartis plans to cut 2,550 jobs in Switzerland and the UK.

Novartis plans to cut 2,150 out of a total Swiss workforce of 13,000 at production facilities in Basel, Stein, Locarno and Schweizerhalle, and 400 in Grimsby in England. An estimated Swiss 1,500 jobs will be cut, with a further 700 moved to Ireland, India, Malaysia, Mexico, and Czech Republic.

Marching in Basel on 24 November under the slogan of Mensch vor Marge - People before Profit - IndustriALL Global Union affiliates Unia and Syna expressed outrage that the highly profitable company would treat its loyal workforce with such lack of respect.

“It is ridiculous and absurd that over 2,000 employees should be thrown onto the street in such a financial situation,” said Unia in a statement.

Unia was not informed in advance of the job cuts, which is a violation of the the collective bargaining agreement.

The company’s income rose 15 per cent to US $7.7 billion last year. The highly profitable company aims to raise its profit margin to 35 per cent. Novartis claims that it is shifting from high volume to more specialized production, and that its factories are not running at capacity. The share price rose after the announcement.

About 800 people joined the rally. IndustriALL sent a solidarity message.

IndustriALL director for the pharmaceutical sector, Tom Grinter, said:

“Novartis was built up into the profitable and successful company it is today through the hard work and commitment of its workforce. To abandon that workforce now, just to improve profit margins, is wrong. We will stand firm in our support for Novartis workers.”

Novartis employs 124,000 workers globally, but this number is expected to decrease significantly with the latest round of job cuts and the proposed spin-off of the company’s eye care unit Alcon.

Unia met with a delegation of Greek MPs investigating bribery and corruption by Novartis. Overcharging by Novartis is estimated to have cost the Greek health service about €3 billion, at a time when the country was experiencing a severe financial and health crisis, leaving many Greeks without access to affordable medicine. During a parliamentary investigation last year, Greek justice minister Stavros Kontonis said that Novartis had likely bribed thousands of doctors.

Since the year 2000, Novartis has paid more than a billion dollars in fines in the United States, China and South Korea to settle corruption cases.