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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

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« Nobel Prizes in Chemistry For People Who Aren't Chemists | Main | Synthetic Electrochemistry: Who's Done Any? »

February 13, 2012

Pfizer Layoff This Past Weekend?

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Posted by Derek

I'm hearing stories that there was a layoff (yet again) at Pfizer, this time affecting the Cambridge researchers. Word is that they got the word over the weekend, which seems rather unusual - anyone have any more details on this?

Comments (56) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


COMMENTS

1. Glad I'm Out of There on February 13, 2012 2:39 PM writes...

Seems to be the case. I got an email Saturday morning from one of my former staff who accepted a relo from Collegeville to Cambridge, announcing that he had just been laid off and asking if a few of us could circulate his CV. The email header said "Pfizer lays off 40 people from II and Clinical RD". I have no idea what "II" is, but that's not surprising since Pfizer changes acronyms about as fast as they lay scientists off

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2. useless molecule on February 13, 2012 2:47 PM writes...

II might be Integrated Innovation, LOL!

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3. PharmaHeretic on February 13, 2012 2:56 PM writes...

What were you guys expecting? Did any of you believe that Pfizer or any other company is interested in something beyond looting everybody else for the benefit of the senior management and their cronies under the guise of responsibilities to shareholders?

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4. You're Pfizered on February 13, 2012 3:29 PM writes...

How did that phone conversation go?

HR: I've got good news and bad news. The good news is, you've got a long weekend....

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5. Azbo on February 13, 2012 3:39 PM writes...

Surely there's no one left to lay off in Pfizer now.

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6. Hap on February 13, 2012 4:01 PM writes...

Wow, that's classy. I'm sure that must have been a special call to get on a Saturday morning (or email, which is even classier). I guess they could have sent the pink slips out as Valentines for even more class:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Pink slips are pink,
Here's one for you.

I also would love (maybe not) being an HR person at Pfizer, not only getting to view the carnage close up (and knowing that you'll probably be soon to follow), but even getting to come in on Saturday to make more of it.

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7. anon2 on February 13, 2012 4:18 PM writes...

Very tacky.

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8. Susurrus on February 13, 2012 4:36 PM writes...

I wonder if they sent Alec Baldwin to the site?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-AXTx4PcKI

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9. LongLiveTheMBA on February 13, 2012 5:04 PM writes...

What a stroke of genius! Imagine having to avoid facing bitter, potentially violent employees during the workweek. Better to let them blow off steam over the weekend. Now this is what we mean when we say "people skills". I am sure it takes a special kind of hard-earned heartless managerial acumen to think of such diabolical strategies; not a lesson from your traditional MBA curriculum.

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10. coprolite on February 13, 2012 6:13 PM writes...

Not that it matters a whole lot, but they weren't laid off over the weekend, they were informed over the weekend and given two weeks notice.

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11. Anonymous on February 13, 2012 7:17 PM writes...

Pfizer waited until February this year? Guess they wanted to prove that they don't always ruin Christmas.

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12. anonymous on February 13, 2012 7:20 PM writes...

Is this like an inverse to Office Space: "By the way we won't be needing you to come in this weekend or next week for that matter"

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13. Anonymous on February 13, 2012 7:58 PM writes...

When are they going to stop the purge? What they don't realize is that all the people that they layoff leave with knowledge of all their secrets. That said, I think you're gonna see some leakage over time....it's the kiss of death for a large science based company. Watch, most of their proprietary info will end up over in China...

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14. Anonymous on February 13, 2012 8:29 PM writes...

Never. Pfizer will continue to buy and gut companies for their products. Pfizer stopped being in the business of R&D a long time ago. It would be a lot simpler for them if they could buy the pipelines/products and immediately pass on the scientists. However, they keep up with the charade that they are still a 'scientific' company and give scientists false hope so they will dredge into lab to be canned on the weekend.

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15. Anonymous on February 13, 2012 9:05 PM writes...

II means Inflammation and Immunology, the names of the two research units in Cambridge.

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16. funkydrug on February 13, 2012 9:08 PM writes...

II is Inflammation & Immunology, i used to work there until last year

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17. anonymous on February 13, 2012 9:39 PM writes...

Yes, there were 40 lay-offs. People were called over the weekend because the information got leaked late in the day on friday.

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18. Anonymous on February 13, 2012 9:48 PM writes...

40 layoffs all in biology in Inflammation & Immunology group out of 75people confirmed.

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19. milkshake on February 13, 2012 10:54 PM writes...

The only consolation is that Boston area still has some chemistry research openings posted (unlike the West coast) and maybe some of the laid off folks will find a less frustrating employer - one that actually values good science and motivated researchers. Also one should not insist on getting a medchem job. (If it was me maybe I would consider going to work for McCormick and have fun designing and analyzing steak seasonings for living.)

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20. BOB on February 13, 2012 11:00 PM writes...

@ Anonymous

Please, they already outsource everything to China. WuXi has probably forgotten more about PFE projects than most people in Groton know.

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21. Anonymous on February 14, 2012 12:04 AM writes...

@18
You mean Inflammation & Immunology have a total of 75 people and they laid off 40 of them??

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22. Stubbie on February 14, 2012 12:50 AM writes...

@18 and @21 That's got to be like the majority of the biologists. What gives?

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23. Nick on February 14, 2012 4:21 AM writes...

In my opinion, the pharmaceutical companies, especially the ones focusing on R&D are dying out. Generic companies will fill in the gap for a while. Synthetic organic chemistry hasn't really seen big innovations in the recent 10 years and the majority of chemists in academia just continue to reproduce old results in order to be able to publish (quantity over quality) and to keep major publishers in business.

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24. Bunsen Honeydew on February 14, 2012 6:29 AM writes...

@23. Nick - I can't completely disagree with you, Nick, but I can't completely agree either. Nevertheless, the drop off in innovation, IMHO, stems clearly from the ridiculous funding scenarios in North America. It's only the top-tier researchers who are getting funded. Innovation springs from all levels, not just the Ivy League. If you give oodles of money to the Harvard, BC, Berkeley, and Stanford and give the little guy no realistic chance of success, this is EXACTLY what happens. You reap what you sow.

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25. darwin on February 14, 2012 6:42 AM writes...

Big Pharma is additcted to layoffs and it is their only thing they are capable of doing. Why not, it worked for the auto industry...if the penulum swings, just re-hire. They no longer can function with a productive R&D model. Doesnt matter which corporate logo you look at, cause they have been copying each others playbook for the last 15 years...just about the time they got out of the game of solving problems and meeting unmet medical needs to focus on a marketing obsession and consultant solutions. I sense the corporate heroin high no longer feels good, but the proven model that worked 2 decades ago has been systematically dismantled, cant be easily rebuilt and layoffs are all that is left as a tool to maintain the doors open.

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26. Anonymous on February 14, 2012 7:02 AM writes...

Yes, the layoff was big. One group was wiped out, and the other (clinical) was seriously cut back. Whatever was left of GI is really gone. Wyeth had left some of it intact, but Pfizer, true to form, destroyed it.

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27. CR on February 14, 2012 9:11 AM writes...

@19, Milkshake:
"The only consolation is that Boston area still has some chemistry research openings posted (unlike the West coast) and maybe some of the laid off folks will find a less frustrating employer - one that actually values good science and motivated researchers."

Nice joke. Finding an employer that values good science and motivated researchers... When is your next stand-up gig?

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28. Glad I'm Out of There on February 14, 2012 9:17 AM writes...

IIRC, this seems to be the history:

1. Kill off inflammation inflammation in St. Louis
2. Localize it to Cambridge
3. Force out Mary Collins
4. Spend hundreds of millions to build a new facility near MIT since 200 Cambridge Park Drive is too crowded to hold all the merged inflammation staff and the neuro staff, some of whom have been moved from Princeton to Groton to Cambridge
5. Kill off inflammation in Cambridge
6. Continue digging hole in ground near MIT and filling it with money

This NEVER was going to end well.

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29. Hap on February 14, 2012 10:16 AM writes...

I guess if the news leaked, your weekend probably wouldn't be very good anyway, and thus it wouldn't be classless for Pfizer to tell their employees then. Sorry about my comment.

Still had to suck for the HR people, though.

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30. milkshake on February 14, 2012 10:26 AM writes...

@27 I think I actually found such employer: a small company founded by polymer chemists doing drug-formulation related research. It has been a very pleasant change, to have a sense of purpose - after many years that I wasted in big academia and big pharma... So keep looking, it is not all doom and gloom, try smaller companies preferably outside the medchem field.

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31. Dr. Manhattan on February 14, 2012 12:00 PM writes...

Hope they didn't lay off Rod MacKenzie. He is so key to their success in laying off large groups of scientists.

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32. CR on February 14, 2012 12:38 PM writes...

@30, Milkshake:

Glad to hear that. But, you have to realize, those are few and far (sometimes, very far) between. I would probably offer the blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile. Mostly those blind squirrels find crap. But, not to be the eternal pessimist, it won't last forever.

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33. Anonymous on February 14, 2012 6:42 PM writes...

The news wasn't leaked...it was disseminated through the site email distribution list due to incompetence.

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34. Anonymous on February 14, 2012 7:58 PM writes...

Any more laptops stolen from Pfizer? That's incompetancy...they should call the Pflaptops!!!

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35. Anonymous on February 14, 2012 7:59 PM writes...

how are the other sites? are they laying off this week?

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36. Quagmire on February 14, 2012 9:05 PM writes...

And there are still students lining up to get their PhD...

Seriously, read the writing on the internet: chemistry.about.com/u/ua/educationemployment/chemists.htm

Bad time, seriously.

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37. davesnyd on February 15, 2012 7:06 AM writes...

No insights into this layoff-- but in general, in my observation, when companies do unexpectedly precipitous things (like issuing layoff notices on a weekend), it's usually because they have bad financial news coming out and they are trying to counter it by showing that they are trying to do something to "correct the situation". I don't know that a "leak" is enough to explain the action-- all layoffs have some amount of leakiness.

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38. I was MacKenzied on February 15, 2012 8:31 AM writes...

@31: Dr Manhattan, you just made me spill my morning coffee because I was laughing so hard!

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39. anonymous on February 15, 2012 11:23 AM writes...

How come if Pfizer is laying off so many scientists, that they are interviewing simultaneously? I mean if one goes to the Pfizer website there would be atleast 10 job openings in Cambridge MA. I just do not get the math

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40. Anonymous on February 15, 2012 1:30 PM writes...

@34 Loved the irony! Well played, sir!

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41. Anonymous on February 15, 2012 6:51 PM writes...

@39
The math is actually very simple. Young PhDs are cheaper in terms of salary and benefits. Eventually they turn 40 and are discarded like used toilet paper just like the older PhDs who they are now replacing. It's all about the money. And no, experience doesn't mean jack. In fact experience = overqualified = need not apply. If Pfizer is like the rest of the sheep in the industry the job postings probably specify: Experience required 0-5 years.

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42. anonymous on February 15, 2012 9:43 PM writes...

@41

I agree. What a crappy profession. You bust your nuts until your 30 (PhD and postdoc), and you get a good 5 years of a career out of it. Wish I could hit a redo button.

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43. Anonymous on February 16, 2012 7:04 PM writes...

@42
Given the job market today, entry level salaries are lower so I think 10 yrs. post PhD / postdoc is more reasonable now (for those entering today). The problem is....where will the med chem field be in 10 yrs.?? My guess based on 17 yrs in the field is (assuming nothing changes) very very limited. Picture this, 5-10 med chemists in a big pharma co. sitting in front of computers (with 2 or more flat screens) outsourcing activities to the less costly bidder. It's going on NOW. China is getting expensive...there are other options to do cheap task based synthesis of compounds without any insight/input from the producers.

So, what's the solution?? Raise the taxes on ANY US OR FOREIGN COMPANY OPERATING IN THE US THAT'S SHIPPING JOBS ELSEWHERE FOR MONETARY GAIN. This must be done. Will Obama do it? Not sure...say's he wants to but let's see. The problem is....time/patience are running out and the US debt is running up!! Let's go people...

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44. Anonymous on February 16, 2012 10:18 PM writes...

@43
You have that backwards. Obama's health care plan increased the costs of US employees and so would taxes. Lower taxes and research tax credits in the US is the only way to increase employment. More taxes will cripple the country.

It would also help if Obama stopped increasing the number of H1B visas for the 'horrible shortage of scientists'. He recently told a wife of an out-of-work engineer to send in the resume because his numbers show him there is a shortage. Yeah, that's why so many of the scientists in this country are unemployed. They cannot write a better resume than a man who never had a job outside of politics.

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45. Anonymous on February 16, 2012 10:22 PM writes...

@43

Good comments. I agree. Obama is on the right track. Tax the Benedict Arnolds and reward the patriotic companies. I just hope it is not too late. By the time the problem is solved, there won't be many med chemists left.

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46. Hap on February 17, 2012 2:49 PM writes...

44: Isn't GE evidence that you can't lower taxes enough that companies won't outsource if they can make money doing so? (They didn't pay any taxes, at least corporate ones, I believe.)

We've tried the "race to the lowest taxes" scenario in OH - it gets lots of low-paying jobs and crappy services. No high-end jobs, and not much tech. I'm pretty sure I know who is winning from that.

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47. Anonymous on February 18, 2012 6:53 AM writes...

@46 is correct. The "we have to outsource" because taxes are too high is a crock. AT&T tried to bribe its way to increasing its share of the telecom duopoly by "promising" to bring back outsourced jobs if the FTC allowed it to buy T-Mobile. It said nothing about taxes being too high or offering healthcare for its workers being too expensive. It saturated the airwaves with nauseatingly sanctimonious "we care about American jobs" ads. Consumers laughed in AT&T's face and the only reason they (AT&T) didn't get their own way despite consumer derision about their dishonest pretense was that it is an election year and the guys in Washington are more fearful of the electorate than they are of not towing the line after receiving gobs of re-election campaign $$$ from Ma Bell.

H Ross Perot was perceived by many (including me) to be a nut case but in hindsight, his comment about "the giant sucking sound" was quite prescient.

@45 Most politicians run on a platform of ending tax breaks for corporations who outsource jobs. Voters fall for the promises and fake platitudes every time. Once elected and the lobbyists start writing the big checks to fund their re-election campaigns, the issue is just silently dropped.

@44 What has a decade of the Bush tax cuts for the "job creators" done for unemployment in the US? It is amazing that "trickle down" still has such a devoted and loyal fan base.

Question. How long does one need to wait to see the benefits of "trickle down"? Two decades? Three?

@43 Are you sure about entry level salaries? Before I was laid off from my big pharma job I can tell you for sure that the young hot shots just coming through the door were making close to what the medicinal chemists with 10 plus years experience were making. The big savings is the benefits. The cost to insure 20 something year olds is a lot less that 40 something year olds. Reduced pension obligations, stock options commitments, etc also factor in. By the time the current crop has gotten used to drinking the Kool-Aid and agreeing that they do in fact walk on water, they will turn 40+ and there will be yet another in the endless stream of "re-organizations" which will render them "no longer a fit for our business model going forward". Until then they can revel in their newly bestowed "golden boy" status and build their name recognition so that they can make a quick transition to "small pharma" once they get the pink toilet paper treatment.

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48. Anonymous on February 18, 2012 3:37 PM writes...

Bush didn't have 'trickle down' economics, Reagan did. Reaganomics saved the US after Jimmy Carter. We need someone to save the US from Obama (Carter II).

Tax breaks and research credits are high in Singapore and are attracting considerable investments from many multinationals. Singapore learned from Reagan's successes, why can't the US remember how we got out of the Carter era?

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49. Anonymous on February 18, 2012 5:50 PM writes...

@48
The Bush tax cuts for the "job creators" have been around for a decade now. Why didn't the Bush tax cuts work when he was president? Obama continued the Bush tax cuts.

You say the industry's problem in the US is Obama. What is the industry's problem in Europe? Is that also Obama's fault?

So you honestly believe that if big pharma just gets more tax breaks and research credits they will stop the mass exodus to China and India and bring those medchem jobs back here? You can't possibly say that with a straight face.

Also, the mass firings of scientists by pharmaceutical companies did not start under Obama. In fact it doesn't matter which president they started under because the WuXization of the industry has nothing to do with politics or the US tax code.

Given your rationalization, why isn't big pharma banging down the door to set up shop in Singapore.

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50. Ricardo Rodriges on February 18, 2012 6:39 PM writes...

The problems of the industry are simply down to the total lack of understanding from the boards and very senior management of most companies as to how drug discovery works.

I do not know if the Pfizer's, GSKs ... etc will be ever able to discover any drugs within their walls. I do hope they at least treat those still working for them properly.

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51. Anonymous on February 20, 2012 10:44 AM writes...

@49
If you think Warren Buffet is pushing the "Buffet Rule" out of sheer genorosity you are naive. The Bush tax credit helped the middle class and small business which did not have the resources to incorporate. Obama is taxing and imposing benefit programs which are crippling these small businesses. Small business owners struggle in from the uncertainity and fear of what Obama will do next. This helps large corporations (and investors like Buffet who own large amounts of their stock) by increasing their market share.

Obamanomics and Europe are struggling for the same reason. Socialist society does not support strong economies. Emerging countries which are mimicking the US's previous capatilist successes are predominanting for good reason. You cannot spend trillions to keep giving away benefits and expect to be successful. You need citizens to be incentivized to be competitive and work to earn benefits.

Companies are transferring many US and UK scientists to new shops in Singapore. The only rate limiting factor is the number of qualified people who are willing to move there.

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52. Anonymous on February 20, 2012 1:14 PM writes...

@51 You've been drinking Friedman economics Kool-aid. It all supply side rhetoric. Keynesian economics is the style of economics that really works. Taxing does not dis-incentivize. If this were true, then why was the 1950's our most prosperous era (when the top US income tax rate was 90%)? Businesses are not growing, mostly because we lack demand. The only way to prime the economic pump is through stimulus, which the republicans want to block to undermine Obama (the stimulus we had did work somewhat, and could've been better if the tax breaks were taken out and substituted with real spending). Countries which have not undergone austerity are actually doing better than those who have imposed austerity. Furthermore, I wish you people would comment on Pfizer layoffs, rather than pushing politics. I hate having to come on here to correct the record.

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53. WellRead on February 23, 2012 5:32 AM writes...

@52

Be honest now, have you actually read "Capitalism and Freedom" or "Free to Choose" by Milton Friedman? I remember watching "The 1 Percent", a 2006 documentary by the heir to J&J, Jamie Johnson. Friedman knocked out Johnson by just asking him if he had read "Capitalism and Freedom", it was obvious Johnson had skipped it...

Don't forget, "Free to Choose" was actually the book that was used to run Estonia and help it recover after the Soviet Union collapse! Friedman works!

Please read the books in full, don't pull a Jamie Johnson and spout emotional, ideological B.S. Friedman rarely even mentions Democrats or Republicans in his books, it's as principled an argument as anyone can ask for.

Back to Chemistry now...

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54. allaboutthepatient? on April 5, 2012 8:36 AM writes...

So...CEO gets 44 million raise and we get this email this week...This company and its senior mgmnt are ruthless thugs! Only interetsed in filling own pockets. Pretty sad when I hear lab workers and scientists morale at all time low...

Colleagues,
We regularly review our benefit programs and policies to ensure they are competitive when compared against our industry peer companies and sustainable for the future. As a result of this ongoing review,
we will be making some changes to our Pfizer Separation Plans for non-union colleagues in the U.S.
and Puerto Rico.
Highlights of the changes to the U.S. and Puerto Rico Pfizer Separation Plans are listed below. I encourage you to review the details of the changes, as well as the attached FAQ.
Current Pfizer Severance Benefits New Pfizer Severance Benefits
Generally, 60 days paid notice Generally, 60 days paid notice
12 weeks of base pay + 2 weeks of base pay per year of service (to a maximum of 104 weeks) 8 weeks of base pay + 2 weeks of base pay per year of service (to a maximum of 104 weeks)
Health care continuation for 12 months Health care continuation for duration of severance period to a maximum of 52 weeks
Outplacement services and $5,000 retraining allowance provided Outplacement services and $5,000 retraining allowance provided
The new severance benefits apply to colleagues who receive official notification
of termination on or after May 14, 2012.

While we fully recognize that these changes will have an impact on colleagues, our benefits continue to be competitive when compared against those offered by our industry peers and other leading global companies. We will continue to analyze all of our benefit programs to support our long-term competitiveness and the sustainability of benefits in today’s challenging business environment.
As our benefits programs continue to evolve over time, we will keep you informed.

I feel better that we are getting the industry standard !@#@$%$%^

Permalink to Comment

55. allaboutthepatient? on April 5, 2012 8:37 AM writes...

So...CEO gets 44 million raise and we get this email this week...This company and its senior mgmnt are ruthless thugs! Only interetsed in filling own pockets. Pretty sad when I hear lab workers and scientists morale at all time low...

Colleagues,
We regularly review our benefit programs and policies to ensure they are competitive when compared against our industry peer companies and sustainable for the future. As a result of this ongoing review,
we will be making some changes to our Pfizer Separation Plans for non-union colleagues in the U.S.
and Puerto Rico.
Highlights of the changes to the U.S. and Puerto Rico Pfizer Separation Plans are listed below. I encourage you to review the details of the changes, as well as the attached FAQ.
Current Pfizer Severance Benefits New Pfizer Severance Benefits
Generally, 60 days paid notice Generally, 60 days paid notice
12 weeks of base pay + 2 weeks of base pay per year of service (to a maximum of 104 weeks) 8 weeks of base pay + 2 weeks of base pay per year of service (to a maximum of 104 weeks)
Health care continuation for 12 months Health care continuation for duration of severance period to a maximum of 52 weeks
Outplacement services and $5,000 retraining allowance provided Outplacement services and $5,000 retraining allowance provided
The new severance benefits apply to colleagues who receive official notification
of termination on or after May 14, 2012.

While we fully recognize that these changes will have an impact on colleagues, our benefits continue to be competitive when compared against those offered by our industry peers and other leading global companies. We will continue to analyze all of our benefit programs to support our long-term competitiveness and the sustainability of benefits in today’s challenging business environment.
As our benefits programs continue to evolve over time, we will keep you informed.

I feel better that we are getting the industry standard !@#@$%$%^

Permalink to Comment

56. terri on April 27, 2012 11:24 AM writes...

I would think Pfizer's cold-hearted, backstabbing treatment of their employees would turn around and bite them in the a_ s one day. In the way of ....whistleblowing....

Permalink to Comment

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