Job-cutting Pfizer saves 100 jobs in Ireland

Pfizer's Ringaskiddy, County Cork, facility--Courtesy of Pfizer

Pfizer ($PFE) took a beating during its run at AstraZeneca ($AZN) for being a company that will cut jobs deeply once a merger is done, a rap that raised a lot of fears in the U.K., where AstraZeneca is based. It may be a bit late, but the U.S. drugmaker can now point to about 100 jobs in Ireland that it is sparing as business has improved.

In 2012, the drugmaker targeted about 130 jobs at the plant in Ringaskiddy for elimination as the patents on Viagra and cholesterol drug Lipitor began falling away. But a spokesman said in a statement Monday that the company has decided to keep about 100 of those jobs after a variety of factors came into play to improve the manufacturing picture there.

"The original decision was taken due to falling volumes in some of our largest volume products and site manufacturing costs needed to achieve greater competitiveness," the company said. "Post-patent markets are extremely competitive and volumes can be unpredictable. We will continue to monitor volumes and demand."

With a $30 million investment in a new R&D lab at the Ringaskiddy campus, the plant will be able to produce some drugs for its pipeline, Pfizer said. That is in addition to the upswing in orders and some changes at the plant that are making it more efficient.

SIPTU organizer Alan O'Leary told the Irish Examiner that with assistance from the Labor Relations Commission, the union negotiated a "transformational" agreement last year that helped change Pfizer's mind about eliminating all 130 jobs. O'Leary said the union is continuing to press Pfizer to save the remaining jobs and also to keep open another plant in Cork that it says it will close.

In May, Pfizer finally called off an effort to sweep up AstraZeneca in an escalating bidding process that eventually hit about $118 billion. Despite the fact that job cuts are an expected part of most mergers, Pfizer was hit with a barrage of harsh criticism for its history of buying up competitors and then spitting out workers. Its actions were depicted by the former CEO of AstraZeneca as akin to a praying mantis that would "suck the lifeblood" out of the company after a merger.

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