Merck puts off Dutch closures to renegotiate

Some intransigent Dutch workers have persuaded Merck to hold fire on facility shutdowns--at least for now. The drugmaker says it will postpone closing some of its operations in the Netherlands until Dec. 31, giving it time to work up potential alternatives. In agreeing to negotiate, Merck staved off a court case that had been schedule for hearing today.

The facilities involved are former Organon sites and include both manufacturing and R&D operations. Merck says it will work "in good faith" to come up with other options, including selling off some of the facilities, Reuters reports. "A lot of options are being considered," spokeswoman Monique Mols tells the news service. "We are looking at every serious option that presents itself," including a sale. "There have been approaches of interest" from potential buyers, Mols says, "but there has not been really serious talks because that was not yet possible."

Merck has been restructuring its global operations in the wake of its merger with Schering-Plough. It's shutting down manufacturing plants and R&D facilities in several countries and laying off thousands of workers in the process. The Netherlands shutdowns were expected to claim 2,175 of 4,500 jobs, but worker protests yielded this latest development.

- read the Reuters news