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EMF Studies

12 November 2011

News from Geneva: Massive lay-offs

Recently, several companies in canton Vaud and factories in Geneva, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the reduction or elimination of numerous posts.  These measures of austerity are tied to the actual state of the world economy:  collapse of the euro and dollar, together with the overvaluation of the Swiss franc.

According to the 7 November 2011 edition of the newspaper, 20 Minutes, 14,642 jobs in Swiss companies were eliminated over the last 100 days, including 5,047 located in Switzerland.

Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, announced the massive elimination of 2,000 posts at the end of October, including 1,100 posts in Switzerland, of which 320 are in the Geneva region (Nyon-Prangins).  300 other posts at this production site will be relocated.  Novartis will close the site and create 700 new posts in “low-cost” countries.  The elimination of the 320 posts in Nyon will save the company 20 million Swiss francs (24 million dollars), which was the salary of its ex-CEO Daniel Vasella in 2010.  Novartis announced a profit of 2.2 billion francs (2.49 billion dollars) in the third quarter of 2011.
A Geneva physician, Dr. Bertrand Buchs, has called for a boycott of Novartis.  He is no longer prescribing medicines with the Novartis Sandoz brand to his patients.  74 other Geneva doctors say they will support his action.

UPDATE on Novartis (17 December 2011):  Employee representatives presented suggestions to the company directors for making the plant viable.  These include:  selling land adjacent to the factory and using the money from the sale to remodel the factory to include other production stages;  "repatriating" the production of certain medicines from other parts of Europe and increasing output.  Management will take a decision regarding these and other proposals in mid-January.

Concerning WHO, due to the economic crisis, the 2012-2013 budget will be 20 per cent lower than that of the last two years, because voluntary contributions from Member States are less.  In order to cover its deficit, WHO solicits funds from private sources such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is controversial because these funds come with conditions.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, has ties with the pharmaceutical industry, Novartis, among others.  The influence of industry also manifests itself through hiring of experts.  In January 2011, the Swiss Paul Herring, Director of Research at Novartis, was named as an expert at WHO.

The laying off of 700 of the 2,400 employees at WHO in Geneva has just been announced.  A lawyer specializing in international relations declared to the newspaper  Geneva Home Informations (GHI) that the lay-off procedure for the 700 employees is illegal.  He is claiming 500,000 dollars per evicted employee in damages, that is, nearly 100 million dollars.  According to him, this massive lay-off is due to “poor management on the part of the actual directorship of WHO which realized too late that it couldn’t manage the necessary costs of its aggressive expansion decided in 2007.”  

by Meris MichaelsReferences:  GHI, Le Point, Tribune de Genève – “Novartis:  2 billion in profit, 2,000 less posts », Independent  WHO – article from tsrinfo.ch).

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