AstraZeneca Job Losses Do Not Put UK Life Sciences Sector In Danger

The reactions from AstraZeneca’s announcement earlier this week that approximately 7,300 jobs would be cut by the end of 2014 has continued, and it appears that the organisation’s UK research staff will be reduced by between 250 and 350 positions.

AstraZeneca, the UK’s second biggest drugs maker, currently employs around 61,000 people globally, 8,000 of which are based in the UK.

The company has not yet provided many details regarding the geographical split of the job losses, although the Swedish site in Sodertalje is expected to see a reduction of 1,100 to 1,200 workers.  As far as the UK is concerned, Allan Black, the national officer for the GMB trade union, said AstraZeneca “told me that between 250 and 350 R&D jobs will be lost at the Alderley Park site and some further backroom jobs will be lost at some of the other locations.”

The GMB and other unions will meet with AstraZeneca to discuss the announcement and what it means for the various jobs across all sites in the UK, he added.  Mr Black concluded by claiming “this is very bad news [as] these cutting-edge R&D jobs are both well paid and essential for a thriving UK economy”.

However, the view that the announcement from AstraZeneca is a signal that the UK life sciences industry is at risk “is not the case”, according to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).  Instead, the ABPI notes, the global restructuring “is designed to improve productivity and strengthen the company’s commercial, operations and R&D capabilities”.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry adds that “AstraZeneca has a long history of investment as a big employer and contributor to the economy as well as the progress of innovation in life sciences.  That will continue”.

In addition they note that the pharmaceutical sector has “moved beyond purchaser and seller transactional relationships to a more integrated partnership model.”  “Innovative research companies large, medium and small are working closer together, just as industry is partnering more closely with the NHS, charities and academia.”

The sector has had to modernise, the ABPI states, claiming that the government “continues to encourage investment and growth in the life sciences sector.”

However, the ABPI claim that the UK government need to do “all it can to incentivise investment – recent initiatives like the patent box have been positive, but they must follow through” and the UK government needs to design “a pricing scheme that values innovation and encourages R&D to take place in the UK.”

The association concluded by reinforcing that “the UK remains a global leader in science and healthcare and huge levels of R&D investment continue to take place”.


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