Less than two years after revealing a multimillion-dollar upgrade plan for its plant in Macclesfield, U.K., AstraZeneca is cutting back, slashing almost 100 jobs in what local union called a “hammer blow” to U.K. manufacturing.
AstraZeneca will let go of 94 employees—out of a total of around 1,800—at the Macclesfield facility in Cheshire, according to GMB Union, which said the cut wouldn’t take place until 2020. The Macclesfield site, which makes medicines such as legacy prostate cancer drug Zoladex, is AZ’s second largest manufacturing facility.
The layoff isn’t necessarily a bad reflection on AZ’s business. It follows a $50 million investment the British drugmaker made there on packaging. Following the upgrade, AZ said its efficiency has increased significantly, and according to GMB, that means fewer employees are needed.
The workers' union depicted the company’s decision as “a hammer blow for manufacturing in the North West—and the U.K. as a whole,” said GMB Organizer Stephen Boden in a statement.
Like others, AZ has been rethinking its global manufacturing network. Earlier this year, AZ unveiled plans to shutter two plants in Boulder and Longmont, Colorado, and lay off 210 workers stationed there as part of a plan to streamline its biologics supply chain and consolidate the biologics manufacturing network at a large-scale facility in Frederick, Maryland.
AZ also has put investments in U.K. manufacturing on hold as Brexit uncertainty clouds the entire U.K. economic outlook. Last October, AZ Chairman Leif Johansson told France’s Le Monde that the company “will maintain our decision not to invest” if Brexit future remains unclear, according to Reuters.
AZ has two other operations in Cheshire, including the Alderley Park R&D center—whose functions and employees are being moved to the new Cambridge, U.K., campus—and a vaccine research team at Speke, near Liverpool. It’s not clear whether jobs at those sites will be affected, and AZ hasn’t immediately responded to a FiercePharma request for confirmation.
Meanwhile, construction of AZ’s new Cambridge headquarters has suffered repeated delays and has reportedly gone over budget. In its 2018 annual report, the company said it’s expected to start occupation of the building from 2020 rather than have it fully operational in that year as previously reported.