U.K. workers dispute Novartis severance pay

Layoffs are not a happy business in the best of circumstances. But when workers think they're being treated unfairly, tempers can really run high. Take the job cuts at Novartis' ($NVS) facility in Horsham, England. The company announced in March that it would slice 550 positions from the plant's workforce. And as the cuts move ahead, employees are protesting.

As the West Sussex County Times reports, 150 workers at the Horsham facility are balking at their severance settlements. The workers have been offered two weeks' pay for each year served--which might have been fine, had they not heard that downsized employees at Novartis' Liverpool facility were offered twice that much. The difference, the workers claim, is that Liverpool's staff is unionized, while Horsham's is not.

In Liverpool, 190 workers face losing their jobs, but the UNITE union negotiated a four-weeks-per-year-of-service severance deal with the company. The Horsham workers filed a grievance to protest the difference, saying that the company had discriminated against non-union employees. After a three-month review process, the company determined that there was no discrimination, the Times reports.

The reported discrepancies have angered and disillusioned workers and the local community. In the past, Novartis has been praised as a good corporate citizen and an "exceptionally good employer." The company will continue to operate at Horsham, with a workforce of at least 330, The Argus reports.

For its part, the company issued a statement to the paper. "[A]ll redundant employees will be offered a severance package that will be enhanced from that required by statute." The company said it had considered "all counterproposals" made by employees, and that other assistance will be provided, including outplacement services and opportunities for alternate jobs elsewhere. The severance packages now await final approval, the company said.

- read the County Times story
- get more from The Argus