A decision by its workers to embark on a long strike to protest an operational restructuring layoff of some staff last year forced Swiss Pharma (Swipha) Nigeria Limited, to temporarily close its Nigeria business, Gaby El Khoury, managing director, said in a statement on Thursday.
Khoury said the attitude of the striking workers, which he described as uncooperative, following the strike that began mid-December, left the company with no option but to shut down for the time being. He said workers were laid off by the company in order to strengthen its operations in Nigeria.
The critical decision had to be taken to save the company’s property and equipment from being damaged by the workers who allegedly stopped being committed to the company since it laid off some of the workers, he said.
He said the sack was prompted by the fact that Swiss Pharma was acquired by Biogram, a subsidiary of the second largest pharmaceutical company in France, Servier, which decided to restructure the organisation to ensure efficiency by removing superfluous staff and eventually align the firm with global best practices.
“Despite the tough economic situation in Nigeria, Biogaran, a subsidiary of Servier (the No. 2 French Pharmaceutical Group) that specialises in generics acquired Swiss Pharma Nigeria Limited (swipha) in March 2017, as part of its expansion plans to other African countries.
“Biogaran trusts Nigeria and Nigerian people, and wishes to provide through Swipha to all Nigerians access to quality and affordable medicines. The decision to buy Swipha was taken despite the poor situation of the company which was at the period, short in cash and under threat of closure.
“Upon inception, the new management decided to lift the company up to its group compliance and social policies, corporate governance and benefits for the employees. Management decided to restructure the organisation to ensure efficiency by removing superfluous staff and eventually align the firm with global best practices,” El Khoury explained in the statement.
According to him, some of these policies appeared to be unacceptable to some members of staff who preferred to slow down, “then to hinder operation and embarked on strike since mid-December 2017, while all efforts to make them have a rethink about a promising future proved abortive.”
He said to safeguard company properties and prevent any form of hostility the management decided to officially shut-down operations temporarily.
“The new management of Swipha strongly believes in Nigeria and is committed to its economic development and is resilient in its quest to engage modern new ways of working, best in class practices and high-level compliance standards, notwithstanding the financial loses the company may incur during this time. It is committed to doing all it takes to ensure that the company maintains and strengthens its position as a leader in the pharmaceutical sector,” the company said.
El Khoury did not, however, address the issue of the sacked workers benefits in his statement which the workers claimed that the management had never mentioned, and so they believed that the company might not have any plan to pay them their severance benefits and other allowances.
But the company in a reaction said that they have continued to engage the worker’s union and would discuss their concerns on all issues. The company assured that all disengaged staff would receive their severance pay.
Swiss Pharma Nigeria Limited was established in Nigeria in 1976 and started manufacturing operations with tablets in 1987 and a liquid line in 1993. Information on its website said it manufactures over 70 percent of its sales volume locally, which includes, solid tablets, caplets, oral liquid syrups and suspensions.