MPs will this week demand that the US drugs company Pfizer guarantee British scientists' jobs for at least 10 years as its boss Ian Read flies in to face parliamentary scrutiny over his proposed £60bn takeover of AstraZeneca.
Andrew Miller, the Labour MP who chairs the science and technology select committee that will question Read this week, said a Pfizer promise to keep 20% of the research and development workforce in Britain for five years was not enough.
"Five years is no time in drug development," Miller said. "A molecule that's discovered today will not be an active ingredient in a medicine that you or I take for a minimum of 10 years. Given the time frames of development in pharmaceuticals, we need very, very long-term commitments."
Politicians, unions and scientists are concerned that the inevitable cost-cutting after a takeover by the New York-based company could eliminate thousands of highly skilled jobs and undermine Britain's long-term science base...It's difficult to imagine that this would happen, but kudos for asking, anyway. Not to be outdone, the governors of Maryland and Delaware are asking about the fate of AZ's jobs in their respective states.
In other news, Pfizer is now saying that their 5 year jobs pledge is legally binding:
...Pfizer's chief executive, Ian Read, wrote to David Cameron last week pledging to complete AstraZeneca's research and development centre in Cambridge, employ at least 20% of the combined company's R&D workforce in the UK for five years, and locate some manufacturing in Britain.
Pfizer said the assurances were legally watertight because they were published with the company's takeover proposal for AstraZeneca. Under Britain's takeover code, the pledges created a legal commitment and should "be given full weight", Pfizer said.
But the US firm, which has a reputation for preferring cost cuts over investment in treatments, offered no new assurances to the government. Sweden's finance minister, Anders Borg, said last week that Pfizer had failed to honour similar assurances on research jobs it made when it bought the Swedish drugmaker Pharmacia in 2002...Yeah, I'd still want some sort of monetary pledge.