Novartis set to CLOSE Grimsby operations with the loss of 400 jobs

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 25 Sep 2018

GRIMSBY has been dealt a huge employment hammer blow, after Novartis today proposed to close its operations in the town. 

A total of 395 employees are affected, with contracting staff dedicated to the plant potentially swelling that figure to upwards of 500.

A South Humber Bank economic driver for nearly 70 years, the decision came as part of a “global transformation of the company’s manufacturing network”.  

It has set a two year timeframe, with a sale hinted as a potential lifeline. It is subject to consultation. 

Cynthia Chiaramitara, Novartis Grimsby’s managing director, said: “This is a difficult day for colleagues at our Grimsby site. The proposal to exit Grimsby is a result of the ongoing evaluation of the Novartis manufacturing network and is not a reflection of the performance of the site or our employees. 

“The Grimsby team has worked hard to supply the Novartis network, its customers and patients with high quality medicines and with a high level of commitment for many years. We’ve built up an excellent reputation, of which we are extremely proud.

“Our focus now is on our employees and it is our company commitment to ensure they are supported and respected throughout this period. All our employees will be treated in a fair and socially responsible way and we will continue to invest in our people during this time.”

Read more: Town MP to hold talks with Novartis executives at Labour Party Conference

It hopes to work with potential partners to secure a future for the 226-acre facility. 

The company, which an hour earlier announced the start of a 2,000 phased job cull and relocation in Switzerland, said it is a continuation of the manufacturing strategy initiated in 2016.

It is working to “adapt its manufacturing network further in response to its changing product portfolio; with fewer high volume products, which the Grimsby site has focused on producing,”. Instead it will have an increased emphasis on specialised and personalised innovative medicines.

The company said it would look at a potential sale, which could potentially allow it to stay open.

In Switzerland more than 1,000 roles will go from its “significant production capacity” across sites in Basel, Schweizerhalle, Stein and Locarno.

Further to this, 700 management roles are to be relocated from Basel to existing business centres in Ireland, India, Malaysia, Mexico and Czech Republic.  

“We continue our efforts to make Novartis more efficient and agile, and to create a company that innovates sustainably and delivers breakthrough medicines to patients,” said Vas Narasimhan, chief executive of Novartis. “We know what today’s announcement means for the potentially affected employees and their families. Although the planned changes will take four years, we wanted to communicate early and transparently. We will do everything we can to help the potentially affected to overcome this difficult transition.”

Read more: Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers on the future of Grimsby stadium, a direct train to London and Brexit

It has been a staple of the industrial Humber bank in Grimsby since the post-war era. Around £20 million has been spent annually to maintain the facilities off Moody Lane, with a contractor community also dependent. 

The first batch of medicine was produced by Ciba Laboratories in 1951, an anti-bacterial product Cibazol. 

Nine years later, as Ciba Chemicals Ltd, it started producing for the agri-chemical, plastics, intermediary and additives markets, as well as pharmaceuticals. 

A first merger saw the nameplate change to Ciba-Geigy in 1971, before a rebrand saw it revert to Ciba in 1993, sponsoring Grimsby Town for a period.

Novartis, Latin for ‘new skills’, came to the fore when rival Basel-based giants Ciba and Sandoz merged in 1996. 

A decade later a £179 million investment was made on site with the site-dominating Building 150, to produce the active ingredients in Diovan, its treatment for high blood pressure. A further £118 million of capital followed soon after, as Rasilez emerged on site, a drug to control hypertension. 

In 2010 it was crowned as the global leader in the 23-site portfolio, and is one of five global pharmaceutical manufacturing sites, alongside Ireland, Switzerland, China and Brazil. 

It has continued to make medicines “which have a huge impact on people’s lives,” including in the past two years manufacturing drugs for oncology, and the first batches of a new treatment for heart failure.

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