Roche, Pfizer deals eye ops jobs preservation

Swiss drugmaker Roche is working with state officials in South Carolina to find a buyer for a manufacturing plant it plans to vacate. And Pfizer ($PFE) is turning over a distribution facility third-party logistics provider. Both of the big pharma moves have a job-preservation element.

In South Carolina, State Sen. Hugh Leatherman has convened a task force to help Roche find a buyer for its Florence County facility, a victim of the drug giant's Operational Excellence program. But they're not looking for just any buyer. They want one interested in the drug-making business--another drugmaker, a contract manufacturer or a life sciences investor group--to preserve as many as possible of the 300 jobs that are there now.

The three-member task force specifically wants to forestall a sale to quick-profit groups that will dismantle the operation and then abandon the area.

As they currently envision the sale, it will include all Roche Carolina facilities and infrastructure. The buyer would assume responsibility for the workforce and continue to manufacture drugs, possibly even the antiviral Tamiflu and oncology treatment Xeloda made there now. And the buyer would be expected to sustain long-term capacity use of the plant through its own pipeline or by attracting new business.

Separately, Pfizer is preparing pink slips for employees at its distribution facility in Vonore, TN, some 20 miles southwest of Knoxville. The company is handing the plant keys to logistics service provider Exel in a strategic move to outsource distribution operations. In addition to Exel, Pfizer is looking to DHL for distribution support.

Though they're facing layoffs, the 186 Pfizer employees may have little trouble finding work. Exel will offer them jobs as it recruits to staff the plant, says in-Pharma Technologist. The deal comes as part of Pfizer's negotiation for services with Exel.

- here's the Roche story
- see the Pfizer article

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