Novartis Workers End Their Strike… For Now

Novartis Workers End Their Strike… For Now

November 18th, 2011 // 2:10 pm @

Earlier today, about 1,000 Novartis workers in Switzerland held a brief strike to protest the planned closing of a plant in the town of Nyon, where about 320 people are employed. The move came after the drugmaker last month plans to eliminate another 2,000 jobs, including 1,100 in Switzerland, which is a blow to a country where Novartis maintains sprawling corporate headquarters.

The strike ended after a few hours when employees received assurances that Novartis would consider alternatives to a complete closure, according to the Unia trade union. Armin Zust, who heads Novartis Switzerland wrote a letter to the Council of State of Vaud in which he “expressed will of the president and directors of Novartis to study in a constructive and open different avenues and alternatives” (see this).

For now, there is nothing to suggest that Novartis has agreed to keep the Nyons facility open. A Novartis spokesman sent us this: “We will look carefully at all proposals put forward by employees, their representatives in the consultation working group and by the public authorities, and we are prepared to give answers to all proposals. A final decision can only be taken after this process.”

The employees also want to meet with Novartis ceo Joe Jimenez, but the spokesman writes that he will do so at the “appropriate time.” The boss is “personally engaged in the process of discussions with the authorities and is committed to listening to all proposals” and “will continue to engage with the authorities on this matter and honor the rules of engagement according to the established consultation process.” We have asked for a copy of the rules.

The cuts are causing quite a stir in Switzerland, by the way. There was a recent demonstration outside the comfy villa inhabited by Novartis chairman Dan Vasella, who was handed a phony pink slip (see here). And a rheumatologist based in Geneva, Switzerland, says he will no longer prescribe Novartis medicines to patients as a way of protesting jobs cut.

Of course, worker expectations are different in Switzerland, where unions retain a more forceful role in many industries and local government may be inclined to add some pressure. And until recently, the pharmaceutical employees there have largely escaped the draconian cuts felt elsewhere. Now, though, this is changing and whether Novartis will accede to worker demands remains to be seen, but the employees appear determined not to go quietly.

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