Corante

About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Emolecules
ChemSpider
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
PubChem
Not Voodoo
DailyMed
Druglib
Clinicaltrials.gov

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
Kilomentor
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
ChemBark
Realizations in Biostatistics
Chemjobber
Pharmalot
ChemSpider Blog
Pharmagossip
Med-Chemist
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
SimBioSys
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Business|Bytes|Genes|Molecules
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Depth-First
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa


Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
FuturePundit
Aetiology
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Sciencebase
Pharyngula
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net


Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
GruntDoc
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine


Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem


Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Instapundit
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus


Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Devils, Metals, and Details | Main | Vanda Comes Back From the Dead »

June 30, 2009

Voluntary, You Say?

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

Sanofi is saying "no layoffs" in their announcement today, but is instead counting on "voluntary staff departures". Here's the press release, courtesy of Fierce Biotech, notable for its relentless insistence on not capitalizing the name of the company.

I'm not sure how those voluntary departures are supposed to work - I can tell you it would take a lot to get anyone in R&D to volunteer to leave their job in this climate. So, generous - very generous - buyouts are one way, and sheer attrition is another (although turnover must not be so high these days either, with fewer places to go). The press release is rather short on details. Don't believe me? Chew on this:

"To implement this new R&D model, sanofi-aventis will group researchers in more productive structures and engage in recruiting and training to adapt the profiles and skills of its collaborators to the demands of these mutations. The model also includes strengthening 'exploratory structures' that work in close collaboration with outside entities and deploying reactive 'entrepreneurial units' to encourage the emergence of innovation and accelerate the marketing of innovative products."

Well, OK, then! I guess we'll have to wait some more for this fog to condense into something recognizable.

Comments (28) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


COMMENTS

1. Sili on June 30, 2009 11:33 AM writes...

At least no├Âne has yet tried to use the excess staff to test out there compounds.

Right? ...

Permalink to Comment

2. Ty on June 30, 2009 11:52 AM writes...

If the 'fully financed' voluntary departure means spin off, I think it's a good thing. Can't wait to see how it works out.

Permalink to Comment

3. T on June 30, 2009 12:08 PM writes...

Closing 8 out of 27 R&D sites without layoffs.

Erm...?

Permalink to Comment

4. milkshake on June 30, 2009 12:29 PM writes...

The site closures and transfer of staff (with voluntary departures without layoffs) are announced for some smaller research sites France. I am curious what will happen in US.

Permalink to Comment

5. alig on June 30, 2009 12:33 PM writes...

They mention spinning off entire units ala Lilly w/ Covance. Let the new company do the layoffs or pay cuts.

Permalink to Comment

6. PharmaGuy46 on June 30, 2009 4:58 PM writes...

At my company, when a research site is closed, and all its members are offered like positions (with relocation expenses paid) at a site 1000 miles away, the term "layoff" is never invoked.
When only 15% of the workforce actually relocates, as is customary, it is hailed as an 85% "voluntary staff reduction." Members of the "85% group" exit with reasonably generous separation packages, plus multiple months to make other plans.
Are these shenanigans "layoffs?" You make the call.

Permalink to Comment

7. Lucifer on June 30, 2009 5:56 PM writes...

Are they going to wire people's chairs to deliver intermittent shocks?

//Sanofi is saying "no layoffs" in their announcement today, but is instead counting on "voluntary staff departures".//

Permalink to Comment

8. Anonymous on June 30, 2009 5:58 PM writes...

MBAs will destroy pharma or whatever is left of it.

Exhibit N

//"To implement this new R&D model, sanofi-aventis will group researchers in more productive structures and engage in recruiting and training to adapt the profiles and skills of its collaborators to the demands of these mutations. The model also includes strengthening 'exploratory structures' that work in close collaboration with outside entities and deploying reactive 'entrepreneurial units' to encourage the emergence of innovation and accelerate the marketing of innovative products."//

Permalink to Comment

9. anon on June 30, 2009 6:11 PM writes...

#6 - PharmaGuy46,

I think some of that is the nature of the industry. Biologists and chemists don't have the luxury of being able to settle down almost in any area, as say a doctor or nurse. Where I grew up, my town of 700 people needs a doctor, but they sure don't need a PhD synthetic organic chemist.
A like issue is that industry is located in hubs. If one wants a job (depending on how desperate they are) they have to go to where the jobs are to improve their odds of finding employment. If Eli Lilly isn't hiring, it's not as likely a chemist will find a job elsewhere in Indianapolis. Do you want to live in Montana because the cost of living is lower? Well, fine - but if you don't work at GSK Hamilton, where will you work?

Uprooting a family and making a cross-country move might not be *optimal*, but I do think a relocation offer is an offer, and at least better than the thought of a layoff with no relocation/rehire prospects at all.

Permalink to Comment

10. Don B. on June 30, 2009 7:14 PM writes...

First you take the 'relocation" & then two or three years later those "refugees" have not met expectations & are "fired"!

Permalink to Comment

11. Anonymous on July 1, 2009 12:03 AM writes...

At least it is better compared to what happened to a few CV therapeutics employees. Gilead Sciences laid off a bunch of CVT people with less than two weeks notice. They were not even given a reasonable severance package.

Permalink to Comment

12. ex-sanofien on July 1, 2009 1:11 AM writes...

The relocations and site closures in France have been planned for years and many research groups have already been transferred between sites without any problem. On the contrary, the transfers have generally been welcomed because the collaborations between complementary groups have been made much easier. It must be said that the distances involved in the transfers are relatively small. As for the severence packages, these are subject to negociations with the unions and departures, at least in France, are completely voluntary and very well remunerated as I can personally testify. Sanofi people in France are very well protected, but what it's like in other countries may be another story.

Permalink to Comment

13. Anonymous on July 1, 2009 1:46 AM writes...

> "MBAs will destroy pharma or whatever is left of it."

They already did. Like a lethal dose of radiation, they're dead already. It will just take a while to realize it.

2011-2012 will be a couple really really bad years for the dinosaurs. The question is: What will happen to the little mammals scurrying around trying to survive?

Permalink to Comment

14. DrSnowboard on July 1, 2009 3:31 AM writes...

Sounds like Viehbacher has decided that having sat through the management consultant pitches at GSK, he'll just take the output for free and implement them at sanofi.

Permalink to Comment

15. partial agonist on July 1, 2009 7:18 AM writes...

I've personally been through one of these non-layoff layoff scenarios with Sanofi-Aventis (a few mergers back and under a different name). They just offer two packages, a relocation package vs. a walk-away package, and the walk-away package is always bigger.

In the current world economic climate the walk-away package might have to be quite a bit higher to get the same amount of takers it did back then when jobs were more available. I went through this in the USA. Our French counterparts were a litte more fortunate and well-protected by labor laws, as I recall.

Permalink to Comment

16. emjeff on July 1, 2009 7:29 AM writes...

That was the best example of verbal management glurge that I've come across in a while, and that's saying something...

Permalink to Comment

17. ProcChem on July 1, 2009 9:44 AM writes...

I am an ex-Sanofi-Aventis employee from a few years ago. When our Dept. was relocated to another site, they gave us 2 options: severance or relocation. I chose the former and was better for it.

Now I have heard that some of the other Depts. at my former site are being removed outright. Transferring to another site should be available; thereby making the notion of "voluntary" a reality.

Going from one site to the other here in the United States is a difficult task. First, the cost of living is very different. Second, simply commuting will only work for a short period of time. Third, those that are close to retirement will simply go that route.

I wish all my colleagues at my former site the best wishes in finding employment. It will not be easy, but do NOT give up! The United States NEEDS Scientists!

Permalink to Comment

18. Hap on July 1, 2009 9:54 AM writes...

Yeah, but we need teachers, police, firefighters, and paramedics too, and look what we pay them. Need seems to correlate negatively with what we are willing to pay (to be fair, sometimes because we can't ever have the money to pay for it).

Need doesn't have much to do with the business end of things, anyway, particularly when the business end of things involves selling your company's future and then getting out (preferably intact) with the cash thereby obtained. Perhaps the "humans as virus" analogy from The Matrix is appropriate.

Permalink to Comment

19. SRC on July 1, 2009 12:55 PM writes...

Hap, are there shortages of teachers, police, firefighters, or paramedics?

If not, they're not underpaid.

Permalink to Comment

20. Hap on July 1, 2009 1:16 PM writes...

I don't know...I didn't figure that they were running those "Be a teacher...be a hero" ads because there was an oversupply of teachers. (For teachers, the problem is more likely that the places people want to work and which have money sufficient to attract people to work there and the places that need teachers are substantially different.) A particular example of the contrary might be nurses - there aren't enough presumably because there aren't enough nursing teachers, in turn because the pay for being a nursing teacher is significantly worse than that for being a nurse. At that point, the pay for being a nursing teacher ought to rise substantially to fill that need, but it doesn't appear to have done so.

There might be lots of factors for jobs (the large investment needed for lots of jobs and the time it requires) that make its market not particularly flexible (and thus not a perfect market). The presence of lots of people for those jobs doesn't necessarily contradict the idea that what people say they need and want and what they are willing to pay aren't always consistent, even if money were the only factor in people's decisions.

Permalink to Comment

21. Hap on July 1, 2009 1:22 PM writes...

Considering the fall in housing prices, if one has been at a company for a while, relocation might be a bigger problem than normal. Even if one is moving upwards in housing (and thus losing less selling their house than the decrease in price for what they buy), the prospect of two house payments for an extended period of time might be a showstopper (of course, having one house you can't pay for would also suck).

Permalink to Comment

22. anonymous on July 1, 2009 9:12 PM writes...

"The United States NEEDS Scientists!"

Why? So I can have company while I stand on the corner with a tin cup, begging for change?

Permalink to Comment

23. Harry on July 2, 2009 6:58 AM writes...

Well, I can't speak for the entire counrty, but here in WV there is a severe shortage of paramedics- mainly because its fairly easy for them to switch over and become a nurse and double their pay, or simply get on the nursing track to start.

Our county ambulance authority (runs 30 ambulances out of 14 stations) has started running our own paramedic classes. Free tuition in return for a 5 year contract or pay back the tuition when you quit.

Raising paramedic salaries is problematic because it's nearly impossible to increase rates to cover it. Medicare and Medicaid have rate caps and other insurers base reimbursement on that.

Interesting regulatory environment to operate in, let me tell you.

Permalink to Comment

24. alig on July 2, 2009 9:56 AM writes...

"Raising paramedic salaries is problematic because it's nearly impossible to increase rates to cover it. Medicare and Medicaid have rate caps and other insurers base reimbursement on that. "

What? A price ceiling has led to a shortage? Who could have ever predicted that?

Permalink to Comment

25. Black Box on July 2, 2009 12:35 PM writes...

The whole chemical culture is messed up. If there existed a shortage of scientists, you'd see adds like "$5000 bonus" or "relocation assistance".

I've seen both for nurses and healthcare workers, nada for chemists.

You see chemistry is now a scam where you give the best years of your life to academics at slave wages then follow it up with a 5 to 10 year career in industry (if you're lucky). If you look closely at the time invested with the academic exploiters, you'll realize that you've only broken even at the time you finish with chemistry.

What follows after that is......??? Should I get an MBA? Aren't the executives claiming there is a shortage of talent?

Permalink to Comment

26. Hap on July 2, 2009 1:06 PM writes...

I know I shouldn't ask this, since I'm pretty sure the paramedics aren't seeing any of it, but where are the fees that cities have started charging on ambulance calls going, exactly?

Permalink to Comment

27. Dr. Manhattan on July 3, 2009 10:37 PM writes...

"To implement this new R&D model, sanofi-aventis will group researchers in more productive structures and engage in recruiting and training to adapt the profiles and skills of its collaborators to the demands of these mutations".

I presume that the "mutations" referred to above are the MBAs running the business end of the company. Just like a bad science fiction film, these parasites live off the revenues of the products derived from the research units.

Permalink to Comment

28. Jonadab the Unsightly One on July 6, 2009 5:39 AM writes...

Rather than make people leave, sometimes it's easier or better to make them WANT to leave.

Ever see the movie "Hunt for Red October"?

> we need teachers, police, firefighters, and
> paramedics too, and look what we pay them.
> Need seems to correlate negatively with what
> we are willing to pay

Those are all examples of careers that have a long-term labor surplus. It's that special combination: lots of people are capable of doing this work (or at least can convince the people who do the hiring that they are capable of doing it), and also lots of people grow up dreaming of doing this work and are reluctant to switch to another career, even if it would pay more, even when it's very hard to get a job in the chosen field. They'll work for low-end pay, because it's better to many of them than a higher-paying job in another field (*any* other field). This is especially true of teaching, especially for elementary school.

> I didn't figure that they were running
> those "Be a teacher...be a hero" ads
> because there was an oversupply of teachers.

I strongly suspect that the US Department of Education pays for those out of earmarked funds. They don't necessarily stop running them in your area just because the local school districts are laying off teachers instead of hiring. If they don't use up the money, Congress might start to question whether they need it all.

Our society definitely doesn't need more elementary school teachers. Better ones, yes. More of them, no. [expletive] no. If anything, what we need is to boost the difficulty of the qualifying exams and wash out a few more before they get started.

Permalink to Comment

POST A COMMENT




Remember Me?



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO A FRIEND

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):




RELATED ENTRIES
The Worst Seminar
Conference in Basel
Messed-Up Clinical Studies: A First-Hand Report
Pharma and Ebola
Lilly Steps In for AstraZeneca's Secretase Inhibitor
Update on Alnylam (And the Direction of Things to Come)
There Must Have Been Multiple Chances to Catch This
Weirdly, Tramadol Is Not a Natural Product After All