Novartis chairman to feel protesters' ire over cuts

Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:29am EDT

* Novartis to cut 1,100 Swiss jobs

* Huntsman looking to slash 600 Swiss jobs

* Plans to protest outside chairman's villa, and in Basel

ZURICH, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Protesters plan to gather in Basel and outside the villa of Novartis AG Chairman Daniel Vasella on Saturday in protest at hefty job cuts planned by the Swiss pharmaceutical company and others.

Outraged by news that Novartis is cutting 1,100 jobs in Basel and the small town of Nyon, Swiss trade union Unia, and Juso, the youth faction of the Socialist Party, are urging people to demonstrate.

The Basel-based group's decision to slash jobs in its home market came just a month after U.S.-based chemical maker Huntsman Corp said 600 of its jobs could go in Basel, a blow to the town of 190,000 inhabitants that has deep roots in the chemicals and pharma sector.

"Since July alone, four companies have decided to cut around 1,800 jobs in the region of Basel -- Swissmetal , Harlan and Huntsman, and now the pharma multinational Novartis, which at the same time posted a record profit of more than $10 billion," Unia said in a statement.

"Enough is enough! It cannot be that companies pull in billions at the expense of their employees," Unia said.

Novartis and Roche AG , which announced a round of job cuts last year, have stressed their commitment to investing in Switzerland, but both are outsourcing routine manufacturing and other operations to cheaper locations as they deal with a tough pricing environment and a strong Swiss franc.

Several other industrial companies have also warned that they may have to move jobs abroad due to the strength of the currency, but last month the Swiss National Bank stepped in and set a cap on the franc against the euro.

The pharma and chemical sectors are key sources of employment in Basel, but many companies such as specialty chemicals maker Clariant AG have started to move jobs to cheaper centres in Asia.

Juso, which has recently been involved in organising protests against bankers in Switzerland as part of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, which has triggered demonstrations around the world, is calling for the occupation of Vasella's villa.

It is critical of the fact that Novartis is cutting jobs while Vasella takes home millions of francs each year.

"Thanks to our undemocratic economic system, those who earn the least are left to pick up the bill. These rip-off artists have made themselves too comfortable in our country," Juso said in a statement.

"Juso Switzerland no longer wants to just sit back and watch this and wants Daniel Vasella to feel the dissatisfaction of the people," it said. (Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Will Waterman)