The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 30, 2013

Merck reducing work force by 45 at Cherokee plant in Riverside

By Karen Blackledge
The Daily Item

— RIVERISDE – Merck Cherokee Pharmaceuticals of Riverside will be reducing its work force by 45 employees throughout the next three months and by the end of the year, a corporate official confirmed Friday.

The cutbacks will affect operations and support functions including hourly and salaried and union and nonunion employees, said Colleen Lange of global communications public affairs for Merck in West Point.

She said the reduction is part of Merck’s strategy to continue to supply cost-effective products to the world.

Merck announced the move to its employees on Thursday.

“This action is part of our existing strategy and ongoing commitment to aggressively manage our cost structure and streamline our operating model. By doing so, we will ensure that we are able to bring our medicines and vaccines to those who need them while enabling us to deliver long-term value to our patients and shareholders,” the Merck statement, issued by Riverside Plant Manager Brian Killen, said.

Lange said the Riverside plant will continue to focus on producing bulk materials for human antibiotics. The bulk materials are sent to other facilities to produce the final products.

With the work force reduction, she said that will bring the employee total in Riverside to slightly more than 300 by the end of the year.

Lange said the reduction isn’t related to a certain product and that it is “all part of our strategic cost structure.”

She said Merck had announced in October 2012 it planned to sell its fermentation operations in Riverside but to date have not received a valid interest in it.

As a result, Merck plans to decommission the fermentation operations and sell off the equipment, she said.

At Monday’s town hall meeting near Danville, retired Merck employee Jerry Buckley asked U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey if he could help prevent the dismantling of the fermentation processes. Toomey said he would investigate the matter and get back to Buckley.

The Merck plant, at 100 Ave. C, began as Heyden Chemical Corp. during World War II and was leased by Merck in 1950 and later purchased by Merck. It was purchased by Cherokee in 2008 and reacquired by Merck in 2010.