GlaxoSmithKline overhaul threatens 1,800 UK jobs

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The world's biggest drugs company, GlaxoSmithKline, is planning a major overhaul of its manufacturing operations that would put almost 1,800 British jobs at risk.

The latest round of job losses, which could affect more than 7 per cent of its UK workforce, would be added to the 1,930 cuts that Glaxo Wellcome and Smithkline Beecham announced before their £125bn merger last year.

The company stressed that the restructuring would not touch its British research and development facilities and insisted that it remains committed to the UK.

GlaxoSmithKline has offered to work with employees and communities affected by the job losses to try to minimise their impact.

Tim Tyson, the president of global manufacturing and supply, said: GlaxoSmithKline remains strongly committed to the UK. The company employs over 25,000 people here ­ around a quarter of its global workforce ­ and conducts over 40 per cent of its research and development in the UK."

There were fears last year that GSK was planning to quit Britain after the merger. Its directors have on occasion clashed with the Government over its attitude to big business and the drugs industry.

A spokesman said the company had discussions with its staff, the Government and unions yesterday after it opened the consultation period on the job losses.

GSK's factory in Speke, Liverpool, would bear the brunt of the cuts: it would close within three years, with the loss of 500 jobs. The company said demand for the asthma inhalers that are made at the site has been in decline because they contain ozone-depleting CFC chemicals.

Production at the Barnard Castle plant in County Durham would be scaled back, with the number of workers reduced from 1,500 to 1,100 as GSK switches production to other sites.

About 720 Glaxo workers at its factory in Montrose, Angus, face an uncertain future after the company said it was looking for a buyer and hoped that it could guarantee at least 300 jobs there.

The company's consumer products plant in Plymouth, Devon, will close, with the loss of 170 staff. Glaxo inherited this site when it took over the US consumer goods group, Block Drug last year.

Outside Britain, GSK will close a factory in Puerto Rico employing 275 workers and reduce the number of people working at its site in Dungarvan, Ireland, by 110.

A spokesman for GSK would not quantify the expected cost savings from the shake-up. But he repeated that GlaxoSmithKline expects total savings from the merger to reach £1.6bn by 2003.

Shares in GlaxoSmithKline rose 3p yesterday to 1982p.