MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mylan workers who were notified their jobs are in danger of being eliminated are awaiting final word from the company on who will be job hunting in 2017.
A Tuesday deadline forced non-union management staff to spend a week deciding if they would voluntarily resign in exchange for a severance package being offered by the company.
As employees were sorting through the details, so were Monongalia County leaders who keep a close watch on industry trends and local employment.
“We learned about it the same way everybody else did through the media accounts or through our friends and colleagues who might be affected by it,” said Jason Pizatella, the director of the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce.
Monongalia County Commission President Eldon Callen told MetroNews affiliate WAJR AM cause for worry started some time ago for him.
“It’s sort of been something we were always concerned from the time we heard they were moving their headquarters to the Netherlands.”
In 2014, MetroNews “Talkline” host Hoppy Kercheval wrote that Mylan CEO Heather Bresch told the New York Times moving the company lowered Mylan’s effective tax rate of 25 percent to 21 percent initially and into the high teens within 5 years.
Mylan’s West Virginia manufacturing facility sits on 23 acres in Monongalia County, just outside the Morgantown city limits.
Pizatella said there has always been some correlation between Mylan success and the region’s economic success.
“We’ve relied in the business community and greater Morgantown on the robust economic growth we’ve had over the last 5 or 6 years and this area has been able to weather the great recession better than other areas of the country and other areas of the state,” he said. “Mylan’s growth and presence in Morgantown is one of the reasons that has been the case.”
In the summer of 2015, Mylan was at the center of a number of stories regarding pharmaceutical company takeovers. Shareholders at one point supported a $36.5 million bid for a hostile takeover of Irish drug maker Perrigo.
Israeli company Teva Pharmaceuticals had considered a buyout of Mylan Pharmaceuticals around the same time.
Most recently, members of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill grilled Bresch about the exorbitant 461 percent price increase of EpiPens. The Mylan auto injection drug counters the deadly effects of allergic reactions. Mylan, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to a $465 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over pricing and Medicaid rebates.
Those issues, Pizatella added, do not reflect on the type of workforce provided in West Virginia.
“I’m optimistic at the end of the day, Morgantown will be alright. Does that mean there might not be a layoff or two? No, that’s not what I mean,” he said. “But, at the end of the day we’ve shown in this community what we can do for this company. I think they’ll take that into consideration when they make their final decision.”
Callen, the president of the Region VI Workforce Investment Board which is made up of local elected officials, estimated Mylan may eliminate more than a hundred jobs in the latest round of cuts.
“It doesn’t mean they’ll all reside in Monongalia County because a lot of people come in from other counties. But, this Region 6 which has 13 counties, we will look at that. And, we’re looking at the loss of about 200.”
Employees who accept the company’s offered buyout would stay on the job until Jan. 11, 2017.
Even if the plant’s workforce is cut by less than the predicted 200, Callen said the impact will be much wider.
“Based on what happened last year with the loss of 125 or 126 miners in the county, there was almost an immediate loss of an additional 100 directly-related jobs to the mining industry. I’m not sure how that’s going to play out with Mylan; we’ll have to see about that,” Callen said.
On Thursday, attorneys general from 20 states, including each of West Virginia’s border states, announced a civil lawsuit against Mylan accusing the company and 4 other drug manufacturers of conspiring to fix prices on some medicines to pad profits. The suit was filed in Connecticut and also includes Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.