The global pharma giant Sanofi has been playing a game of hide and seek with its employees in Bangladesh.
The French lifesaving drug producing firm has repeatedly claimed that it will not leave Bangladesh, and yet at the same it has been asking its local employees to submit their compensation-related suggestions to it.
With no clear statement coming from the firm following the submission of the compensation proposals, the employees of the multinational pharmaceutical company began a 96-hour work abstention last Monday. They have been demanding compensation and suspect that the management of the company will fold operations at the 22 branch offices of Sanofi across the country without paying compensations to them.
The movement gained momentum when two directors and the head of a department of the firm joined the employees on Wednesday, demanding security of jobs until a settlement is arrived at on the issue.
The three are Tanbir Ashraf Bhuiyan, director, sales and marketing, insulin care and critical care business, Dr.Imtiaz Ahmed Firoz, director, medicine and Md Tomiz Uddin, head of sales at Sanofi.
Third day of work abstention
"We have submitted a compensation proposal to our country chair Ramparsad Bhat and managing director Muin Uddin Mazumder on September 30", said an official on the 12-member committee of employees which handed over the demand letter to the Sanofi management.
"Earlier, at three meetings we had with our high officials on September 16, 17 and 18, we submitted the compensation proposal to them on the advice of the country chair," he added.
The Business Standard has obtained a copy of the minutes of the meeting dated September18, 2019.
"If the management do not meet the demands by Thursday, we will go for a tougher movement," said the official."We are afraid major job cuts will take place before the company is handed over to a third party. The company, as we understand, is preparing to sell its shares to another party."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Sanofi official said that most executives of the firm draw monthly salaries of more than Tk 1 lakh each. If the company winds up all of a sudden, where will they find new jobs, he asked.
If Sanofi provides compensation through a third party, many of its employees will become victims of a job cut before that. The employees therefore have demanded that they be guaranteed job security until a resolution of the issue. They are opposed to any third party playing a role in compensation-related matters.
Employees' major demands
The compensation proposal submitted to the country chair and managing director by Sanofi employees on September 30, 2019, includes 35 terms and conditions on the principle of best practices in multinational companies.
The Business Standard has obtained a copy of the three-page compensation proposal.
The principal demand of the employees is 120 months' gross compensation payments based on annual guaranteed pay and other benefits regardless of the duration of service, payment for six-month notice period, sharing of profits with employees and sharing of assets valued at a minimum 10 percent of sales price.
Among other demands are risk benefits for employees aged 45 years, payment of insurance coverage and no termination of workers until the completion of winding up process of the company.
When The Business Standard contacted Sanofi with its queries, it was told by its spokesperson that the details sought by TBS are internal in nature.
However, the spokesperson noted that Sanofi has provided quality medicines and vaccines to patients in Bangladesh for over 60 years. "As a responsible company, we have been in constant dialogue with our employees to reassure them that their interests, and that of patients in Bangladesh are a high priority.
We have also reaffirmed our commitment to ensuring that patients have continued access to innovative, affordable and high-quality healthcare solutions. We have nothing further to add to this."
Earlier on October 02, 2019, the French pharma giant claimed that it is not leaving Bangladesh. The Business Standard has obtained a copy of the statement.
Decision on leaving Bangladesh
In the first week of August, though, the company conveyed its decision about leaving Bangladesh to the state-run Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation, which is a shareholder of its local operations.
In terms of shares, the BCIC holds 19.962 per cent and the ministry of industries 25.396 per cent, with 54.642 per cent owned by the multinational company.
Each year, the company provides dividends to the national exchequer amounting to more than Tk 1.5 Crore.
There are various drugs of the company popular in Bangladesh. Mention may be made of Avil and Sefrad.
Among its life-saving drugs are taxotere, eloxatine for cancer, and lantus, apidra and insulin for diabetes.
As of December 2017, the paid up capital of the non-listed company was estimated at around Tk 36 crore while the total assets of the company have been calculated at nearly Tk 515 crore, with external liabilities amounting to Tk 265 crore.
On the basis of net asset value per share, the BCIC invested Tk 50 crore, the ministry invested Tk 63 crore and the multinational firm invested Tk 136 crore.
Bangladesh's drug market has been expanding at a double digit rate, reaching a figure of around US$2.0 billion. Sanofi holds over 2.0 per cent shares in the booming local pharmaceuticals market.