Merck throws curveball with plant buy-back

Merck's global restructuring, in which it plans to shrink manufacturing operations to 77 sites from the 91 it counted after its Schering-Plough merger, has taken a twist. The drug giant is buying back a Pennsylvania manufacturing plant it sold to contract manufacturer PRWT Services in 2008.

A spokesman for the drug giant says the Riverside plant is "critical to our supply chain." It's unclear how the acquisition will affect the 77-site figure. The company has said it plans an overall international workforce reduction of 15 percent across 140 countries in an effort to save $3.5 billion by 2012.

That makes it all the more puzzling how Merck will keep on the payroll all 454 Riverside workers, as it says it will. But it's a good thing, especially for those at mid-career and beyond. Such employees are likely plentiful at the plant, which McClatchy-Tribune Information Services says Merck ran for 58 years before the 2008 sale. Their high income level and mastery of skills that are less in demand today than when their careers began conspire to make future placement difficult.

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