Basel protestors march against Novartis cuts

Novartis ($NVS) Chairman Daniel Vasella (photo) got a pink slip on Saturday. Don't be shocked--it was a fake, presented in protest of 1,000-plus job cuts planned for the drugmaker's Swiss operations, Reuters reports. About 45 people showed up at Vasella's Zug-area villa Saturday to lodge their disapproval, while 1,000 marched in Basel.

Organized by the youth faction of the Swiss Socialist Party and the trade union Unia, the demonstrations showed just how shocked workers have been by recent job cuts--not only at Novartis, but at other longtime Swiss employers. Indeed, it appears as if the Novartis announcement was the last straw in tipping organizers toward protests.

It didn't help that Novartis reported rising sales and billions in recent profits, nor that the drugmaker said it would be adding jobs in lower-cost areas such as India and China. Union rep Brigitte Martig said in a statement that the Swiss cuts are "ruthless" and "incomprehensible" in light of the company's recent performance, InPharm reports. But Novartis countered, saying the layoffs anticipate impending generic competition for its blockbuster drug Diovan, which brought in $6 billion last year.

Unia wants Novartis to reconsider cuts at the Swiss plants, one in Basel and another in Nyon. It's also asking the local government to step into negotiations, InPharm says. "The demonstrators ... are criticising Novartis for putting profits ahead of jobs and want it to reconsider its decision," the union said in a statement (as quoted by The Peninsula).

- read the InPharm coverage
- get more from Reuters
- see the Peninsula article