Minister blames trade unions for failed tender

The U.S.-based unit of Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals International has abandoned the privatization of Serbia's state-run pharmaceutical company Galenika.

Source: Beta, Tanjug

In a letter sent to the Serbian Ministry of Finance on Friday, the company said this came "mostly because of a hostile attitude of the trade union and employees towards a potential privatization."

The letter addressed to Minister Mlađan Dinkić reads that Valeant has decided to give up on submitting its letter of intent.

The main reasons for the decision are the recently published agreement according to which Valeant Pharmaceuticals International is taking over Bausch & Lomb company - and the publicly expressed hostility of Galenika's trade union and employees toward a potential privatization, the ministry published on its website.

On December 21, 2012, the government decided to launch a process to find a strategic partner for Galenika, and the Ministry of Finance and Economy first invited potential investors to tender their bids on January 15. On May 31, the deadline was extended until June 14.

The Valeant Pharmaceuticals International was the only candidate that met the qualification criteria, according to a mid-April release from the ministry.

On Thursday, several hundred employees in Galenika staged a protest against possible privatization of the company in front of the Serbian government.

Dinkić on Friday toured Microsoft's premises in Belgrade and blamed Galenika's trade unions for "driving away" an investor that was its "last hope".

He also added that because of the workers' protests, "thousands of their colleagues will lose their jobs."

The minister's message to workers was that "if they want to run a factory they must pay for that factory's losses." He then added:

"If they want the state, that is, all Serbian citizens, to pay for those losses, then they cannot decide on how to run it."

But Galenika's trade unions issued a statement of their own on Friday, saying that Valeant had given up on the tender "because it reached an agreement with another pharmaceutical company - not because the unions were opposed (to the privatization)."

The statement added that the June 6 protest was not directed against any company or potential investor, but was staged to present a stance which a majority of workers considers to be right and in the interest of the citizens.

"The entire tender procedure was unusual and insufficiently transparent, especially because it gave the potential investor an opportunity to choose the strategic partnership model," the trade unions also said.

Galenika employs 2,700 people, of which 1,000 are considered to be redundant. The troubled company was recently in the news after several of its former top managers were arrested on corruption charges.

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