Bayer bio-tech workers' vote in Berkeley send company a stinging rebuke

Bayer bio-tech workers' vote in Berkeley send company a stinging rebuke
September 22, 2011 12:36 pm
■Yesterday's overwhelming vote signals a looming crisis if Bayer refuses to address job retention concerns after taking tax subsidies
BERKELEY, CA   Workers at Bayer's pharmaceutical plant in Berkeley cast ballots yesterday in an election that sent the company a stinging rebuke for refusing to provide employees with job security after company officials took millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies that were supposed to protect well-paying jobs.

By a margin of almost 4-1, workers authorized their elected negotiating committee to cancel an agreement reached three years ago with Bayer - if the company refuses to protect jobs from being outsourced

"Workers are standing up for the community because Bayer took millions in taxpayer subsidies to protect good jobs, and now they won't provide any assurance that those jobs won't be sent away," said Fred Pecker, the elected union leader from ILWU Local 6 who is helping 400 workers negotiate a new contract with Bayer.

Bayer's plant in Berkeley produces the highly profitable prescription drug Kogenate, which is used by hemophiliacs to improve blood clotting. Record sales of the drug totaled $1.35 billion in 2010, adding to Bayer's total profits last year of $2.5 billion.

Negotiations for a new contract began on July 25, 2011. Key concerns include the need for safer staffing to protect employees and ensure quality standards won't be compromised in the plant. Also important is the need for affordable health care benefits, which have been taking a greater share of worker's paychecks each month. Concerns
over job security erupted in 2009 when Bayer threatened to outsource some of the Kogenate production to another
state.  Local and state officials agreed to provide Bayer with generous tax subsidies if the company would keep jobs in
the community.  Concern exploded again this spring when Bayer decided to close a nearby plant in Emeryville, outsourcing the 400 jobs to a foreign facility.

 "Too many companies are trying to take advantage of workers and communities during the recession," said Pecker.  "We're asking Bayer to be more accountable to our community and taxpayers."

If Bayer refuses to address the community concerns about good jobs and taxpayer subsidies, workers may
notify Bayer that the current agreement will be cancelled within 48 hours - opening the door for further action.