More than 1,000 pharma jobs to go at Merck

German chemicals and pharmaceuticals group Merck KGaA announced plans to slash one in ten jobs in Germany over the next three years in an effort to save costs.

More than 1,000 pharma jobs to go at Merck
Protests over the planned cuts earlier this summer. Photo: DPA

The company said in a statement that none of the cuts would involve forced redundancies.

“Merck plans to eliminate around 1,100 of the 10,900 positions in Germany by the end of 2015,” the statement said, as part of an efficiency plan drawn up in agreement with employee representatives.

The jobs would be cut “in a socially acceptable manner, mainly through

voluntary resignation and early retirement programmes across all divisions and


The pharma giant said there would be no outsourcing, with a few key exceptions.

Two sites employing around 140 employees in Lehrte and Hohenbrunn are to be discontinued. Management and employee representatives would “consider various scenarios for the two sites” in the coming months.

“We have had constructive discussions with works council members for the

past several months and are happy to say that we now have a roadmap that will

position Merck Germany in such a way that the company is prepared for the

challenges we will face,” said human resources head Kai Beckmann.

“This agreement is a positive development for Merck’s future and a clear

commitment to Germany.”

Works council chief Heiner Wilhelm said it was “particularly important”

that there would be no forced redundancies through the end of 2017 and “we

were largely able to avoid outsourcing of jobs.”

Further cost savings would be achieved via a reduction in personnel costs as the result of “a restructuring of the compensation system,” Merck continued, but did not provide further details.

The company said it would also invest “at least €250 million euros” in its headquarters in Darmstadt and other German sites over the next two years.

AFP/The Local/sh

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‘Important not to be last’: Spaniard becomes first ever female to solo manage German DAX firm

Belen Garijo has taken over as CEO at German pharmaceuticals giant Merck -  the first woman to singlehandedly run a DAX 30-listed company - as Europe's top economy debates quotas for greater boardroom equality.

'Important not to be last': Spaniard becomes first ever female to solo manage German DAX firm
Belen Garijo. credit: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Spanish-born Garijo, 60, who started in the new role on May 1, says she’s not content to be a one-off.

“It’s more important to me not to be the last woman at the top of a company than to be the only one,” the trained doctor recently told the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Garijo previously served as the group’s deputy chief executive officer and head of its healthcare unit.

Her immediate focus will be on Merck’s frontline role in the fight against Covid-19, with Garijo announcing that the firm will scale up deliveries in the months ahead of the lipids used in vaccine production for clients such as Pfizer-BioNTech.

“We are turning the house upside down to do that,” Garijo told German news agency DPA.

She is replacing Stefan Oschmann, 63, whose term ended after five years at the helm of the Darmstadt-based, family-owned group, which had never had a female chief executive in its 350-year history.

Garijo, a mother of two and a passionate Real Madrid supporter, is making history as the first solo female leader of a firm listed on Frankfurt’s blue-chip DAX 30 index.

German software group SAP made the first cracks in the glass ceiling in 2019 when it appointed Jennifer Morgan as co-CEO alongside a male executive.

However she bowed out last year after just six months, as SAP decided to switch back to a sole chief executive – Christian Klein – to steer it through the pandemic upheaval.

‘Hard work’

Although Germany has been run by a woman chancellor for nearly 16 years and Christine Lagarde heads the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank, female top executives remain a rare sight in Europe’s leading economy.

Germany’s gender pay gap is also one of the largest in Europe, with women earning about 21 percent less than men on average. But things are changing.

The German government introduced legislation in 2015 requiring women to make up 30 percent of supervisory board seats in large companies, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved plans in January to introduce similar rules for executive boards.

Garijo, who previously ran Sanofi’s European operations, joined Merck’s healthcare unit in 2011.

She has been credited with overhauling the department’s research and development and refocusing attention on fewer drugs with better prospects, boosting sales and profits, according to the Handelsblatt financial newspaper.

Garijo for her part puts her success down to “hard work” and to having seized her chances “when they arose”.

She is not, however, a fan of legal quotas to promote women, even in the face of middling results from voluntary measures by industry.

“I am against all forms of discrimination, including positive discrimination,” she said.

‘It’s time’

Under the draft law approved by Merkel’s government earlier this year, listed companies with four executives or more must appoint at least one woman to their executive boards.

Included in the new legislation, companies in which the government holds a majority stake – such as the rail group Deutsche Bahn – will have stricter rules, with at least one woman on management boards with more than two members, and a 30-percent quota to come in the future.

The legislation, the object of a political tug-of-war ahead of a general election to pick Merkel’s successor in September, must still pass parliament.

Seventy-three groups would be impacted by the new rules, among which 32 currently have no female representation in the executive suite, according to government data.

Merkel, in power since 2005, has spoken out at foot-dragging by business leaders, against the resistance of some in her own conservative bloc.

“It’s time, following action with the surveillance boards, for something to finally happen with executive boards – it’s in the interests of the companies too,” said Katharina Wrohlich, gender researcher at economic think tank DIW, which has since 2006 compiled a barometer of female representation at Germany’s top firms.

At the end of 2020, they counted just under 14 percent women on their executive teams, versus around 35 percent on supervisory boards, giving ammunition to those calling for legal remedies.

SEE ALSO: Why German stocks just hit a record high