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Merck Serono confirms closure of Swiss sites

Negotiations fail to keep operations running at Geneva headquarters

Merck Serono Geneva HQ

Merck Serono has confirmed that its Swiss operations in Geneva and Coinsins will close with the loss of over 500 jobs following almost two months of negotiations with employee representatives.

These negotiations had included several proposals from employees, including the possibility of maintaining certain activities at the company's Geneva headquarters, one of Merck Serono's two HQs.

However, Merck Serono, the pharma division of Merck KGaA, said: “After a thorough review of these proposals, the division has determined that these proposals are not viable or practicable given the need to eliminate existing duplications of functions to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the business as announced on February 24, 2012 by Merck.”

Instead, Merck will stick with its original intentions and consolidate all headquarter functions within its German headquarters in Darmstadt and transfer 750 of its 1,250 Geneva employees to other sites, with the remaining 500 positions set to be cut.

Manufacturing operations in Coinsins will be relocated to Aubonne, with 80 positions to be made redundant across its facilities in the Swiss region of Vaud, which comprise sites in Aubonne, Coinsins and Corsier-sur-Vevey.

Despite the inability to keep its Geneva headquarters open, Merck said that several aspects of the proposals received from employees during negotiations relating to the social plan had been incorporated.

This includes the chance for effected employees to apply for part of a $30m support fund to help launch a biopharma start-up.

“We have already received many proposals and several are at an advanced stage of discussion,” said François Naef, chairman of the board of Merck Serono.

He added: “We continue to aggressively pursue discussions with potential partners, the authorities and other companies and organisations active in the Lake Geneva area to identify as rapidly as possible job opportunities for affected employees.”

Elsewhere, Merck said it has lowered the minimum age for early retirement eligibility from 58 to 56 years and employees who resign before the expected end of their contract will retain the right to part of their severance payment under certain conditions.

Employees will be informed about their personal situation by the end of July, 2012 and it is expected that the majority of transfers and cuts will be completed in the second half of 2012.

Closure of the Geneva site is planned in mid-2013, with the Coinsins site to follow in 2014.

19th June 2012

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