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Merck Korea forcefully shuts down general medicine biz
  • By Kim Yun-mi
  • Published 2019.10.15 15:51
  • Updated 2019.10.15 17:10
  • comments 0

Merck Biopharma Korea said it would complete shutting down the General Medicine Division by Nov. 30. The company is encouraging employees at the division to apply for the early retirement program (ERP) by Friday this week.

The labor union said it would not accept the company’s move, claiming that the management was cutting every worker’s job in the division through ERP without providing any option for them to move to another division or another company.

Cho Young-seok, leader of Merck Biopharma Korea's labor union

On Oct. 11, Merck Korea announced that GC would sell Merck’s diabetes treatment Glucophage in the local market and that it would close the General Medicine Division by Nov. 30. The company is also near a deal to sell the marketing rights of Concor, used to be sold by the division, to another drugmaker.

The company also suggested workers in the division apply for ERP by this week.

“Opening ERP only for the division, not for the entire company, shows the management’s intention to lay off all of the employees in the division. This is unacceptable,” the labor union said.

“There must be other employees at another division who would have hoped to apply for ERP as well,” Cho Young-seok, head of Merck Korea's union, said. “In that case, it is possible that workers at the General Medicine Division who want to stay could move to another division. But the company is not giving the opportunity, saying they lack expertise.”

In response to the union’s demand for continued employment, the company vaguely said it would arrange a job interview for another pharmaceutical company, Cho went on to say.

Such an unclear stance signaled that the company wanted to shut down the division unilaterally, he added.

Many workers in the General Medicine Division took the company loan because they are salespersons in need of a car or a house, according to Cho. The company asked ERP applicants to pay back the loan by Nov. 30 when leaving the company, he said. “Getting rid of the division and demanding the workers complete the loan repayment at the same time is almost the same as ‘kicking the workers out on the street naked,’” Cho said.

The company said the union’s claim was groundless.

“Vacant positions in other divisions are open to all of the employees through the internal job posting site,” an official at Merck Biopharma Korea said. Encouraging ERP only for the General Medicine Division was based on the different client targets, he added.

“While other divisions’ sales focused on general hospitals, the General Medicine Division’s sales were centered on clinics. They had different expertise,” the official said.

If there are workers who want to continue their employment at another company, the company will receive job applications and relay them to the drugmakers that bought the sales rights of Glucophage and Concor, the official said. “As the pharmaceutical firms have their own desired talents, it will be natural for them to go through the hiring process,” he added.

Along with ERP, the company could support a government-guaranteed degree program for two years for those who seek academic development. The company could also share with workers information about outside job postings and offer a program to help them with CV and personal statements to get employed again, the Merck official said.


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