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Novartis job cuts protest

Published on 31/10/11 at 10:17am
Swiss protest image

Protesters have been demonstrating outside the home of Novartis chairman Daniel Vasella and in the streets of Basel, Switzerland, in the wake of the company's decision to slash 2,000 jobs and close three of its manufacturing plants.

Around 45 protesters gathered outside the executive's villa in Risch, near Zug, with the event organised by the youth faction of the Swiss Socialist Party (Juso) via a Facebook campaign called 'Occupy Villa Vasella'. They presented him with a fake redundancy notice.

Meanwhile, around 1,000 people marched through Basel - where the bulk of the Swiss job cuts will come - in order to protest against the closure decisions.

That action was co-ordinated by the professional trade union Unia. Brigitte Martig, the union representative for Novartis and the Northwest Switzerland region, said in a statement that the action was 'ruthless' and 'incomprehensible', particularly in light of Novartis' recent announcement of a 20% increase in revenues in the first nine months of 2011, and a net profit of around $10 billion.

Switzerland has been particularly hard it by the plans, with 760 jobs set to go at the chemical site in Basel and another 320 at another facility in Nyon making over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, which together account for almost one in 10 employees across Novartis' Swiss operations, according to Unia. The third manufacturing plant slated for closure is a chemical unit in Torre, Italy.

Novartis said when announcing the reductions that they would be offset by the creation of 700 jobs in low-cost locations such as China and India.

Unia is demanding that Novartis come to the negotiation table to reconsider the cuts at the plants, and is also asking the local government to contribute to the consultation process.

Novartis said its decision was a pre-emptive move, prompted by the upcoming loss of patent protection for its biggest selling drug Diovan (valsartan) for high blood pressure, which added $6 billion to its coffers last year. 

Phil Taylor

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