GSK closes India plant after 'flash' strike by workers

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has halted production at a consumer health plant in India that makes Horlicks nutritional drink products after workers there unexpectedly went on strike.

In a one-sentence notice with the Bombay Stock Exchange on Monday, the drugmaker’s consumer health unit said that because of a “workforce/flash strike,” it has suspended operations temporarily at its plant in Nabha Patiala starting the night of May 21 “in the interest of safety and security of its employees and to protect the assets of the factory."

The filing didn’t say what might have precipitated the strike, but the company acknowledged in a phone call that it occurred after GSK suspended an employee, and that production at the plant that manufactures Horlicks nutritional drinks has been temporarily suspended.

A GSK spokesperson said in an emailed statement: “As a company we aim to maintain healthy industrial relations across all our factories and are committed to resolving the situation quickly through discussions with all relevant parties.”

According to the Hindustan Times, workers started a hunger strike at the plant May 17 to protest “misconduct.” The strike came after the plant management suspended union president Mewa Singh Saturday. The newspaper said the dispute was expected to go to court after meetings between the company and the union were unable to resolve issues.

The U.K. company is leaning more heavily on its consumer health unit following CEO Andrew Witty’s somewhat controversial 2014 agreement with Novartis ($NVS) to walk hand-in-hand in that arena. While GSK reported a 4% rise globally in consumer health sales in Q1, the Indian unit, which relies heavily on Horlicks sales, recently reported flat to lower sales and profits for the year ended March 31.  

- here’s the BSE filing 
- get more from the Hindustan Times 
- here’s the GSK Consumer Healthcare annual report 

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