After Merck Biopharma Korea shut down the general medicine (GM) division late last year, an employee was allegedly pressured to apply for an early retirement program and took his own life, its labor union said.
The worker was found dead on a playground near his home in the early morning of Tuesday last week.
The union said he applied for ERP and planned to leave in May.
“The employee seemed to have been unable to overcome the extreme stress caused by forceful retirement disguised as a voluntary move,” the trade union said in a statement.
A unionized worker said the deceased was a worker at the GM division from a provincial branch and was under pressure that the company might move him to a position in Seoul unless he voluntarily retires. “He was deeply frustrated by his situation of being used and discarded easily,” the union member said. “The worker had a young son, and he had to submit the ERP form on the last day of application.”
The union member went on to say that the deceased showed signs of suicide several weeks before the incident and that he heard from the bereaved family that the worker suffered from extreme stress and insomnia after applying for ERP.
In September, the headquarters of Merck ordered its Korean offshoot to close the GM division. Under the headquarters’ decision, Merck Korea sold the sales rights of hypertension drug Concor and diabetes medicine Glucophage that the GM division used to sell to local pharmaceutical companies. The company encouraged 35 employees under the GM division to use ERP.
More specifically, the company said it would close the sales activities of the GM division as of Nov. 30 and that it would allow ERP applicants to choose the date of leaving. The later the retirement date, the less the retirement compensation would be, the company reportedly said.
The trade union said the company pushed employees to apply for ERP from Oct. 11-18 and offered the program only to the GM division, not entire workers. The union said it demanded the company guarantee the succession of employment at a new company that takes over the drug sales rights and conduct ERP for all employees, but the company rejected the demand.
Merck Korea again prompted the GM division workers to use ERP from Nov. 20-27, threatening them that there will be no ERP anymore. According to the union, the company said that unless the employees apply for ERP, those living in provincial areas will have to continue to commute to the Seoul headquarters.
Out of the 35 workers who used to work at the GM division, 24 have applied for early retirement. The other 11 workers who did not use ERP were called to work at the head office. Five of them from provincial areas have received the company’s financial support to move to Seoul and are working at the headquarters.
Merck Korea’s labor union described the latest incident as “a tragic situation caused by the management’s irresponsible decision.”
The union demanded the company reward the bereaved family along with a sincere apology and courtesy, help employees who are having a hard time to return to their jobs and homes immediately, sternly punish those who are responsible for the incident, and guarantee that a similar mishap will never happen and offer a sincere apology.
Regarding the tragedy, Merck Korea said the incident was heartbreaking and that the company was praying for the deceased and conveying condolences to the bereaved family.
“The company is providing the maximum support to the bereaved family and will help them with utmost courtesy,” the company added.
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