Merck Serono totes up the toll of its 1,250 Geneva job cuts

In a somewhat unusual move, Merck Serono has given a person-by-person accounting of its Geneva headquarters shutdown. Those 1,250 Swiss staff targeted in that cost-cutting plan? They're landing on their feet, the company says.

Naturally, the company is trying to make its job-cutting more palatable--not least because of intense employee protests and local government opposition. Earlier this year, Merck KGaA, which bought Geneva-based Serono in 2007, said it would shutter the local headquarters and cut staff at two Swiss sites.

Job cuts in total: 500 HQ layoffs and 80 layoffs at the two other sites. The remaining 750 headquarters employees would be transferred, including 130 to Aubonne and Corsier-sur-Vevey, the company said when the closure was announced. Local unions counted up to 1,500 layoffs, including long-term contract workers and staffers uninterested in transferring to Germany, Boston or Beijing from their Swiss homes.

We'll stick with the official number. Of those 1,250, about 40% know what they're doing next, the company says. "Job prospects for more than 500 of our Geneva employees, or 40% of Geneva-based employees, have been clarified," Merck Serono Chairman François Naef said in a statement.

Here's how Merck Serono figures it: 260 have taken jobs elsewhere in the company, 170 of them in Switzerland and 90 abroad. Thirty-five more haven't decided whether to transfer. Of those eligible for early retirement, 80 elected to take it. And 170 have found other jobs, including 16 staffers who have joined start-ups supported by the company's 30 million euro ($38 million) fund, and 40 who accepted jobs with contract researcher Quintiles.

"We hope that more employees will accept the transfer offers that we have made and that the various outgoing contacts and initiatives will rapidly lead to new jobs for the others," Naef said.

Personally, we'd also like to see a similar head count from all the other drugmakers who've cut their payrolls over the past several years. What do you say, Big Pharma?

- see the statement from Merck Serono
- read the InPharm story