Saturday, July 3, 2021

Viatris telegraphs closure of decades-old West Virginia plant, where more than 1,400 will lose jobs: report

Months after Pfizer and Mylan’s generics spinoff Viatris sketched out a $1 billion cost-cutting initiative, the company is telegraphing details around the closure of a major U.S. plant formerly operated by Mylan. 

Viatris is due to shutter manufacturing operations at its oral solid dose plant in Morgantown, West Virginia, on July 31. That same day, a majority of some 1,431 layoffs there are expected to go into effect, The Dominion Post reported Thursday, citing a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notice Viatris sent to local authorities this week. 

It’s possible that limited wind-down and closure activities will continue after the July shutdown, potentially through March 31, 2022, the notice said.

Viatris informed Morgantown workers of the plan on December 11, the company said over email. The call to close the plant “was a decision Viatris did not take lightly,” it added.  

RELATED: Viatris, Organon could merge given similar business models, but one of them already seems more credible: analyst

Of the more than 1,400 staffers set to be laid off or “separated from employment,” 764 are unionized and 482 are not, the Post reports. The closure, first announced late last year, has led to outcries from workers, union leaders and lawmakers seeking to protect jobs. 

The plant has been operating for decades and has been a staple of the community for many years. Viatris CEO Michael Goettler acknowledged the plant’s history when his company announced the closure late last year.

“The site has been producing medicine in Morgantown since 1965 and paved the way for Mylan’s early growth,” he told MetroNews in December.

Non-union employees are in line to receive a comprehensive severance package, which includes pay and benefits, Viatris told Fierce Pharma. Union employees, meanwhile, will need to negotiate their severance package with the company and union, Viatris said. 

United Steelworkers Local 8-957 recently submitted a petition on behalf of the plant’s union workers, entreating West Virginia’s governor Jim Justice to take action. Meanwhile, West Virginia’s state legislature has passed resolutions that call on Gov. Justice to create a task force of congressional representatives, labor organizations and other industry leaders to press President Joe Biden to leverage the Defense Production Act to save the plant. 

RELATED: With Mylan-Upjohn merger wrapped, Viatris chairman Coury collects $29M in 2020 pay

Despite the closure, Viatris says it will maintain a “significant” workforce in Morgantown. It plans to continue working with groups like Workforce West Virginia to offer career readiness programs to employees hit by the closure. 

When Viatris blueprinted its plan in December, it said it would look to find buyers for its plants “wherever possible” in a bid to preserve jobs. The work ongoing, Viatris said, but right now its “primary focus remains treating those impacted fairly and with respect as the closure process continues.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comments from Viatris.

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