GSK sacks 100-plus China workers for misconduct in wake of bribery scandal

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is breaking out the broom once again to clean up its act in China. It's dismissed more than 100 employees there for misconduct in part of what it calls a "zero tolerance" approach--but the fired workers aren't taking their dismissal lying down.

After increasing its monitoring of expense claims, upping its compliance efforts and bringing on a legal firm and external consultants to review its China ops, the pharma giant took "disciplinary action against employees whose conduct contravened GSK's values and Code of Conduct," it said in a statement obtained by FiercePharmaAsia. Those breaches took place prior to mid-2013, when Chinese officials slapped the company with bribery allegations totaling $489 million.

But the laid-off employees plan to protest their canning, according to a statement seen by Bloomberg. The ex-employees dispute the British drugmaker's decision, and about half of them plan to take their complaint to Chinese labor authorities, one worker told the news service.

The way they see it, Glaxo acted without "producing any evidence of compliance violations to the employees," and didn't offer "any compensation or reasonable communications," their statement said. On their agenda: seeking compensation negotiations with the company, resuming their jobs and patching up their reputations.

It's not GSK's first round of layoffs since the bribery scandal--nor is it the first time those layoffs inspired protest. Last July, a trio of ex-staffers sued the company for so-called illegal termination, demanding two months' pay for each year of their Glaxo employment. GSK encouraged some China employees to resign in the wake of the scandal and threatened others with contract terminations and bad references, one plaintiff said.

But as CEO Andrew Witty works to right the ship in China--and repair GSK's tarnished reputation after a host of other bribery allegations in the Middle East and elsewhere--the company is standing firm on its misconduct stance.

"Regardless of scale, we will not tolerate misconduct," its statement says. "Where evidence of misconduct has been found, we take appropriate disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment."

- see FiercePharmaAsia's take
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