Pharmaceutical company Actavis has decided to close down the research and development department in Bulebel, where 60 employees work.

While insisting that no jobs had been terminated yet, Actavis Malta’s managing director, Sergio Vella, explained that, following the acquisition by US giant Watson, the company ended up with many R&D units worldwide, creating duplication of work.

Last December, the company closed down an R&D unit in the US and another one in Greece was closed last week.

The employees at the Bulebel unit, with an average age of 38, received an e-mail at 7am yesterday, calling them to an urgent meeting at 11am.

Some of those who were on long leave or maternity leave were also asked to attend.

The meeting was addressed by Watson’s vice president R&D and by the vice president human resources, who came to Malta specifically to address the employees.

The workers were given a presentation of the R&D situation and were informed of the company’s decision to close down Malta’s R&D arm by the end of the year.

They were told in advance so that those who preferred to could seek employment elsewhere.

Mr Vella said the decision was part of the company’s global restructuring process.

The Finance Ministry confirmed the company’s decision, noting it would not affect the rest of the 1,000-strong workforce.

Later in the day, Malta Enterprise had an urgent meeting with managers on the decision of the international management. The two sides reached an agreement for the talks to continue, the ministry said.

It said the company’s local management would be making proposals that would be discussed with Malta Enterprise, with the aim of finding a solution that would safeguard the people affected.

Earlier, Mr Vella said the company was prepared to do everything it could to minimise the impact of its decision, including looking in whether some of the workers in question could be absorbed in other operations, including manufacturing.

The affected employees are not members of the General Workers’ Union although the union enjoys official recognition at Actavis.

However, when contacted, section secretary Jason Deguara said it was possible the workers would join the GWU to start negotiations with the company.

Actavis has two plants in Malta, at Bulebel and Ħal Far. The affected workers are at the Bulebel plant.

The takeover by Watson, which already operates Arrowpharm in Ħal Far, meant that Actavis Watson became the largest pharmaceutical company in Malta.

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