Press Release, October 8, 2010
Coalition against Bayer Dangers (Germany)

Bayer US: Layoffs despite Tax Breaks

only 14% of US-workers have collective agreements / Unions systematically pushed out of Bayer factories / protests at Bayer Berkeley plant

Bayer Corporation announced the laying off of 29 union workers in Berkeley/California. The factory is one of the last unionized Bayer plants in the US. About 150 workers protested in front of the plant despite Bayer's threats against those going to the rally.

Only last year the company received a $10 million tax break from the Berkeley and Oakland City Councils. Prior to this Bayer had threatened to outsource parts of the production to a contract manufacturer. The Berkeley plant is the sole producer of Bayer´s antihemophilic factor Kogenate. Sales for Kogenate last year were 888 million Euro (about $1.2 billion).

Donal Mahon from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Oakland comments: “The company told us they would give us 45 days notice before layoffs and that they would occur in the fourth quarter. They gave us two days notice, they were double what was expected, and they came in the third quarter. They also threatened to lay more of us off and rewrite the job descriptions to take production jobs out of the bargaining unit if we took the issue to arbitration.”

Despite Bayer´s promise that “employees have the opportunity to form representative bodies at all our sites” (Bayer Sustainability Report 2009) the company conducts aggressive anti-union campaigns, especially in the US. Only 14% of Bayer´s North American workforce have collective agreements on wages and working conditions (the lowest percentage of all Bayer employees worldwide), in comparison to 42% in Latin America and 88% in Europe.

Workforces considering to establish works councils are told by Bayer that unions are jeopardizing jobs. Factories with organized workers are threatened with being closed. This is a threat that has often been carried out: in 2007 Bayer shut down a pharmaceuticals plant in West Haven, Connecticut; 1,500 highly skilled union workers were laid off. Also in 2007 the polymer factory in New Martinsville was reduced in size; about half the bargaining unit was thrown out or given severance. And the Elkhart/Indiana plant with a workforce of more than 2.200, largely unionized, was nearly completely shut down.

Axel Köhler Schnura from the watchdog group Coalition against Bayer Dangers, which has been monitoring the company for more than 30 years, says: “BAYER has a long history of giving profits precedence over labor rights. It is a scandal that 45 percent of the total Bayer workforce are not protected by collective bargaining agreements. The low extent of unionization results in lower wages and less resistance to dismissals.”

Less than a handful of Bayer´s more than fifty factories in North America are still unionized. Bayer has more than 16.000 employees in North America. About a quarter of Bayer´s sales are made in the US, more than in Bayer´s home country Germany.

contact Donal Mahon:

Daily Californian, September 29, 2010

Bayer HealthCare Job Cuts Unlikely to Be Reversed

By Hannah Moulthrop
Contributing Writer

Though Bayer HealthCare's layoff of 39 employees last month has been met with protest from union members and offers from city officials to mediate between the two parties, the company - the second largest private sector employer in Berkeley - seems set in its decision to reduce costs through the elimination of these positions.
Nearly 150 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, 120 of whom are currently employed by the company's West Berkeley location, rallied outside the biotech plant Sept. 22 to draw community attention to what organizers called "needless" job losses. Union representatives met with Mayor Tom Bates Sept. 23, asking him to facilitate communication between management and workers and prevent further layoffs.
The plant is one of Bayer HealthCare's many locations around the globe and produces the hemophilia drug Kogenate. The company's net profits are up by 27 percent for the first half of 2010, compared with the same period last year - a $1.6 billion increase.
Despite these gains, the branch faced pressure from its upper management - located primarily in Germany - to become more efficient in production while reducing costs, a demand which led to the layoffs, according to union representatives.
"Becoming more competitive increases our appeal as a destination for additional manufacturing investments and helps secure a strong and prosperous future for the (Berkeley) site," said Sreejit Mohan, the company's director of public policy and communications, in a statement following the layoffs.
But according to Dave Fogarty, the city's economic development project coordinator, it is unusual for a profitable branch to make cutbacks in response to the global needs of a parent company.
Union organizer Carey Dall said that sales of Kogenate, which is particular to the West Berkeley plant, remain high and that layoffs of Bay Area employees occurred in spite of the branch's individual success and increased efficiency.
He added that employees who have retained their positions at the plant will now be forced to take on additional work to further improve efficiency at the branch.
"Employers are not hiring folks, and they're asking those of us workers to do more work faster," he said. "The folks that do the cleaning of the productive machinery - they have to do a triple cleaning of anything that will touch the pharmaceutical itself. Five to six (of them) got laid off. They're being told to do more work and do it faster without overtime."
While Mohan said in the statement that the company's management recognizes the impact of the layoffs "on the lives of people," the statement maintains that the cuts were necessary to make the company more competitive and efficient.
The rally held Sept. 22, however, was organized with aim of potentially getting laid-off workers rehired, according to Christian Sledge, chief steward for the ILWU Local 6, the Bay Area's division of the union. The union's ongoing communication with Bates is also aligned with this goal.
The Bayer layoffs are contributing to the current tide of increasing job loss in the city. From December 2007 to December 2009, the city has witnessed the loss of 7,025 positions, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.