Merck Blinks Over Plant Closings in The Netherlands

| About: Merck & (MRK)

After a summer filled with demonstrations and threats from employees to stage walkouts, Merck (NYSE:MRK) has decided to postpone the planned closure of some of its operations in the Netherlands while talks are held on potential alternatives, including a sale of the R&D site, Reuters reports. The last-minute deal avoided a court hearing scheduled for Thursday at which employees hoped to block the closures.

The downsizing, which involved closing three sites employing more than 2,100 people, was actually part of the large layoffs planned by Merck after purchasing Schering-Plough, which had previously acquired Organon (see this). Last month, Organon employees announced that, every day at noon, five workers at the R&D facility in Oss would leave their desks and labs, and walk to Oss town hall to complain. The widely publicized action was expected to continue for months. The Oss plant makes ingredients for the Saphris antipsychotic.

For now, Merck has agreed to negotiate alternatives, including a possible sale. “A lot of options are being considered. We are looking at every serious option that presents itself,” a Merck spokeswoman tells Reuters. “There have been approaches of interest…We have heard some names, but we cannot comment on that; but there has not been really serious talks because that was not yet possible.” However, if no deal is reached by Dec. 31, both sides go back to their corners and resume battle.