As Sanofi preps to leave Bangladesh, workers there plan a hunger strike: report

Sanofi’s planned exit from Bangladesh might not be a seamless one, as employees angry about the lack of compensation packages have threatened to go on a hunger strike.

Sunday, workers of Sanofi Bangladesh formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka and sent the company a 72-hour ultimatum, demanding a severance plan, The Independent reported.

“If our demands are not met by Thursday, we would have to opt for tougher measures,” said Anower Hossen, leader of the Sanofi Bangladesh Officers Development Council (SBODC), a newly formed union of local Sanofi officials. By that, he meant a hunger strike at the company’s headquarters Thursday, according to the local newspaper.

In a statement shared with FiercePharma, Sanofi said it aims to find a buyer that will continue to promote its drugs in the long term “for the benefit of both, our patients and employees.”

Sanofi has decided to leave the country by selling its 54.64% stake in the local outfit within the next year or so. “We believe that in Bangladesh we are not necessarily in the best position to maximize business opportunities. Accordingly, Sanofi is seeking to sell and transfer its stake in Sanofi Bangladesh Limited (SBL), while continuing to make available in Bangladesh our quality brands,” the company said.

It follows GlaxoSmithKline’s similar move in late 2018 to shut its drug manufacturing operations in the country and bundle the remaining consumer health business with its India nutrition products in a £3.1 billion ($4 billion) sale to Unilever.

Pointing to that GSK deal, Hossen said it's common for multinational companies to offer compensation packages when they close their businesses.

“From (the) workers’ side, we have prepared a proposal for that compensation package and submitted that to the officials concerned, but we haven’t got any assurance on our proposal,” he said, as quoted by The Independent.

RELATED: Sanofi aims to save 1,100 jobs in Bangladesh by selling its local stake: report

Sanofi said it intends to “negotiate a collective employment guarantee clause for at least twelve months.” But employees said they are not convinced.

“Sanofi said it would hand over its share to third party and the third party would ensure at least one-year contract with all of Sanofi’s employees. But we are not sure about it because the new owners might not employ us at all. So we want a reasonable compensation package,” Majharul Islam, publicity secretary of the SBODC, told the newspaper.

Sanofi sells some popular drugs in Bangladesh, including antibiotic Sefrad (cephradine), cancer therapies Taxotere (docetaxel) and Eloxatin (oxaliplatin), and diabetes blockbuster Lantus.

Editor's Note: The story has been updated with a statement from Sanofi.