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Quintiles offers lifeline to Merck Serono employees

Published on 28/06/12 at 04:43pm
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Quintiles has said it will make at least 100 job offers within the next three months to workers set to lose their jobs as a result of the closure of Merck Serono's Geneva headquarters.

Earlier this month, Merck Serono confirmed plans to close the Geneva HQ and a manufacturing facility at Coinsins as part of a restructuring of its Swiss operations that will see around 500 jobs axed, and 750 workers moved to other locations in its network.

Clinical and commercial services specialist Quintiles is planning to start interviewing employees in early July for positions in clinical operations, biostatistics, clinical research, and drug safety.

The outsourcing firm promised to take a "pragmatic and flexible approach to exit and hiring dates, taking into account employees’ preferences as well as business requirements".

It also said the location of the positions will include options in the Lake Geneva area, but to also allow home-working in some instances.

One consequence of taking on Merck Serono staff seems to include an increase in the contracted work offered to Quintiles. The firm's president of clinical operations, Paula Brown, said adding the employees would allow Quintiles to undertake ‘expanded work’ for Merck Serono as well as other biopharma companies.

Meanwhile, François Naef, chairman of the board of directors at Merck Serono said the company was continuing discussions with "a wide range of third parties" to try to find alternative job opportunities for employees affected by the restructuring.

"We hope to announce other initiatives in the near future," he said.

Merck Serono said last week that it has set up a €30 million ($38m) fund to back employee start-ups via measures such as capital investment and/or the granting of intellectual property licenses, and that several projects are already under evaluation.

While the Quintiles announcement is undoubtedly good news for the affected workers, relations between Merck Serono, trade unions and the cantonal government appear to have become increasingly acrimonious.

The Unia union representing many of the Geneva staff has scheduled another day of strike and protest actions today (28 June) in the face of what it described as the company's ‘arrogant behaviour’ in refusing to enter into negotiations about its social plan to assist workers who are losing their jobs.

Phil Taylor

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