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Union reacts angrily to Sanofi site closure

By Tim Sandle     Mar 23, 2012 in Business
Newcastle Upon Tyne - A major pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, has announced plans to close one of its major sites in the UK. This has met with an angry response from the trade union representing the site's workforce.
Despite news being posted yesterday on the Digital Journal about the 'big pharma' giant Glaxo planning to invest some $800 million into UK manufacturing, news has come in that another large pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, is planning to close a facility in northeast England with a loss of 450 jobs.
According to PM Live, the Sanofi site manufactures solid dose and oral drugs, which are distributed around Europe. The plant is located at Fawdon, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and is scheduled to close in 2015. The reason given by Sanofi relates to an economic downturn caused by competition from cheaper, generic drugs. The main drug made at the plant is the blood thinner Plavix (clopidogrel), which is being hit by the loss of exclusivity in a number of key markets.
The move by the French owned Sanofi is to be challenged by Britain's biggest trade union Unite. The union is angry because options to keep the site open and to protect jobs have not been explored. Bob Bolam, the union officer leading the campaign is quoted as saying:
"This is a total shock for the workforce. It is devastating news. Sanofi has been at the heart of Fawdon for decades. Unite is looking to work with the company to mitigate the losses and to support the surrounding area which is obviously going to be affected by these cuts. We are calling on the company to explore all avenues to try to save these valuable jobs.
The union official went on to take a swipe at the economic conditions, which he placed at the door of the UK's ConDem government:
"The announcement comes on the day unemployment figures show that the North East has the worst jobless rate in the country. It is time the government acted to support the North East. Next week we need a budget for jobs and growth to support the region which is really suffering under Cameron's government.”
In response, Sanofi's press statement, quoted by InPharm, reads:
“Employees at the site have been notified of the proposal and a process of collective consultation with employee representatives is now underway. We will support our people in every way we can to best manage the impact of this announcement and to help them through the consultation process and beyond.”
The local newspaper for the area, The Chronicle, quoted one worker affected by the closure, Jane Miller as saying:
"I’ve been feeling sick ever since we were told to leave early Tuesday night and then come back in for the meeting in the morning. You just worry about the future and how it’s going to affect your family."
Unite the union countered the Sanofi version of events and have stated that they will contest the closure and maintain that there has been no meaningful consultation. The union claims that the workforce were simply given a letter about the closure and were then sent home.
More about unite the union, Sanofi, Newcastle, Drugs, redundancy
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