Merck Serono Workers Considering A Work Strike

Merck Serono Workers Considering A Work Strike

June 7th, 2012 // 1:12 pm @

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Having already postponed a threatened strike once, Merck Serono employees are planning a job action for next week, depending upon whether the drugmaker accepts at least one of three proposals that were submitted yesterday. The move comes two months after the Merck KGgA announced that Merck Serono headquarters in Geneva would be closed and some 1,250 jobs would be eliminated.

The employees, along with the Unia trade union, have suggested the drugmaker keep its Geneva office, with employees accepting salary cuts and a two-year increase in efficiency of up to 30 percent, according to genevalunch.com. Another idea is for Merck to maintain a high-tech research center in Geneva that would employ 300 people and give special partner status to start ups created by employees who leave. The third possibility would create a $68 million fund to help staff create start ups.

Earlier this week, Merck employees staged a protest at the Geneva site and vow to go on strike on June 12 if a meeting tomorrow with management fails to yield any progress. “The workers have reiterated their determination to fight to preserve jobs and to defend themselves against the destruction of know-how in the region in favour of profits,” according to the Unia trade union, which is organizing another rally for Saturday

The resistance from employees recalls a similar effort made several months ago by Novartis workers in Switzerland, who succeeded in pressuring the drugmaker to change its mind and abandon plans to close a plant in Vaud, Switzerland, a step designed to save about 320 jobs. At the same time, the drugmaker agreed to elminate fewer than the 760 jobs that were originally to have been cut at a chemical plant in Basel (read here). The turnabout came after Novartis employees lobbied local government to similarly pressure the drugmaker.

Whether Merck KGgA will also buckle remains to be seen. We asked Merck KGgA for a comment and will update you accordingly. Merck Serono employees, meanwhile, argue that actual economic loss will extend beyond the 1,250 jobs to be effected. About 750 will be transferred and the remaining 500 positions will be eliminated, but this does not include temporary workers. They also argue the move will hurt the local and national economies. [UPDATE: A Merck spokesman wrote us to say a decision may be made by June 19.]


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