Swiss activists plan 'occupy' protest at Novartis chair's house

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Call it Occupy Vasella's Villa. Swiss protesters angry about job cuts at Novartis ($NVS) are organizing for weekend demonstrations at Chairman Daniel Vasella's (photo) house. The drugmaker announced earlier this week it would slash 1,100 employees from its payroll in Switzerland, and that news didn't sit well with union members or other activists. Besides the protests planned for Vasella's villa, demonstrators intend to move in on Novartis' headquarters in Basel, Reuters reports.

It didn't help that Novartis' announcement came on the heels of several others. The trade union Unia issued a statement toting up 1,800 jobs targeted by four other Basel-area companies--and pointing out recent Novartis profits. "Enough is enough! It cannot be that companies pull in billions at the expense of their employees," the union said (as quoted by Reuters).

Juso, a youth organization affiliated with Switzerland's Socialist Party, is calling on activists to occupy Vasella's villa. The group has recently been organizing protests against Swiss banks as part of the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement. And as Reuters reports, it's pointing to Vasella's multimillion-dollar compensation at a time when the company is cutting jobs. "Those who earn the least are left to pick up the bill," Juso said, as quoted by the news service. "Juso Switzerland ... wants Daniel Vasella to feel the dissatisfaction of the people."

Vasella is no stranger to protesters. Animal-rights activists have set fire to his hunting lodge, desecrated family graves, and tagged his church with graffiti. He publicly condemned those attacks. The OWS protesters haven't gone to such extremes in the past, and there's no indication that they would now. We'll have to wait and see whether Saturday's protests come off--and how Vasella responds.

- read the Reuters story

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