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Nearly 400 jobs to go at UK Novartis site

Published on 05/11/13 at 06:56pm

Novartis has announced that nearly 400 jobs will be lost at a key site in the South of England by the middle of next year.

Confirming the decision a spokesperson from Novartis said: “Novartis UK is today announcing that it will initiate consultation on proposals to close its Horsham site in West Sussex. These proposals will impact up to 371 roles, but will be subject to an employee consultation process and final UK board approval.”

The site had been the company’s worldwide headquarters for respiratory and gastro-intestinal research, but has fallen out of favour with the firm and comes as the company looks to shake up its global strategy and re-structure its manufacturing and R&D presence.

It follows a similar decision by Pfizer in 2011 which cut down on operations at its European R&D HQ in Sandwich, Kent.

Novartis said: “We understand that this will be a difficult time for potentially affected employees, their families and the wider Horsham community given the links the company has in the area. We will work closely with everyone affected, including our associates, contractors, suppliers and local stakeholder groups, to make the process as straightforward and smooth as possible.

“This potential restructure of operations at the Horsham site is the result of a global review of research operations and realignment of our other global R&D sites. The proposals are part of the company’s ongoing efforts to align resources to better serve patients and customers in a challenging healthcare marketplace.”

The firm added that it faces ‘challenges’ in today’s industry which has partially led its decision this week, but would not elaborate on just what challenges these are.

Its site in Horsham is one of the biggest providers of jobs in the local area.

During an interview with the West Sussex County Times, Novartis’s country president Sue Webb said 371 jobs are at risk, as well as 170 local contractors.

“It is an incredibly difficult time for everyone at the Horsham site and our focus is that people have the right facts,” she said. “Our focus now is on our people and to work out what is best for them.”

A drawn out affair

The Swiss pharma major first announced plans to close manufacturing operations at the site in 2011 (which finally ended in September this year), saying at the time that global development and respiratory R&D would continue there for ‘the time being’.

In 2012 Novartis softened the blow by saying it would look to maintain a presence at the site, adding that it would sell off 12 acres of the site to redevelopers and upgrade the remaining space which houses the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) respiratory disease centre.

Ahead of its first announcement in 2011, Novartis employed around 1,000 workers at the site, and the company had said it wants to whittle numbers down to around 440, with more than 80% of these employed in respiratory R&D.

It now looks as if all of these jobs will now be removed, however, as the site is set to be shuttered completely. 

Local concern

Local Conservative Roger Paterson, who is also Horsham District Council’s cabinet member for the local economy, said: “This shocking announcement from Novartis is a most regrettable decision and one which will negatively impact on Horsham’s local economy.

“We don’t know what the fall-out will be but it will have a detrimental affect - there’s no question about it.”

He went on to say that the local council understands that the decision to close the Horsham site is “a consequence of the company’s strategic review of its international operations,” rather than a reflection of local circumstances.

But there was a sting in his final remarks: “However, decisions such as this highlight how unpredictable future employment has become, particularly for international companies making remote decisions based on global demand, without regard to the effect on local employment or local economies.”

Ben Adams

 

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