The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 26, 2012

Merck plans to cut 30 jobs at Cherokee

By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item

RIVERSIDE — About 30 employees of Cherokee Pharmaceuticals will lose their jobs as the facility ceases its contract fermentation operations in September.

The decision was announced in a press release issued Tuesday by Cherokee’s parent company, Merck.

Merck announced in 2011 its plans to sell or close the Cherokee plant’s fermentation facility as part of global consolidation effort. No sale agreement has been reached.

In August, Merck announced it was going to cut 13,000 jobs worldwide, including 5,000 in U.S. facilities.

Currently, Cherokee employs 380 people, said Merck spokesman Ron Rogers. All employees impacted by the decision will be notified by the plant manager in face-to-face meetings and group meetings with managers, Rogers said. Some employees have already been informed and all others “will be notified fairly quickly.”

Employees will be advised on a case-by-case basis of any other opportunities for them in the company, Rogers said. He said the goal is to treat employees with dignity and respect.

“We are fully committed to providing our colleagues with support through the time of transition,” he said.

Rogers said no specific sale agreement has been reached regarding the fermentation assets of the Cherokee plant, and the company will not speculate on their future.

Manufacture of the plant’s antibiotic products, Primaxin and Invanz, will continue unchanged.

In May, Riverside Borough Council agreed to rezone the area around the fermentation unit after plant manager Justin Noll said that doing so would help Merck sell the facility. In March, Noll told the council he was in talks with a potential buyer. He did not give a name, but said it was a relatively small company that could potentially create a lot of new jobs.

According to the company press release, Merck’s largest U.S. manufacturing facility is in West Point, Pa. Merck employs nearly 13,000 employees in the state.