Sanofi’s top management has agreed to pay service benefits to employees in the form of gratuity and provident fund before selling off its shares in Bangladesh, said some employees.
Abdur Razzaque, president of Sanofi employees’ platform Sramik-O-Karmachari Union, confirmed that the top management has provided this assurance to the employees.
However, Sanofi needs to pay compensation as the employees risk losing their jobs once new owners take over the company, he said.
“I hope Sanofi will also agree to pay the compensation to the employees as the negotiation (for change in ownership) is ongoing,” Razzauq told The Daily Star over the phone.
“We do not want any third party buyer to pay the service benefits and compensation. We want Sanofi itself to pay it,” said an executive of the company asking not to be named.
The employees do not have any confidence on such third party payments as there is a possibility of being cheated of it, he said.
Sanofi Bangladesh Managing Director Muin Uddin Mazumder could not be reached for comment despite several attempts.
So far, names of some domestic companies, especially pharmaceutical ones, such as MGH, ACI, Akij Group and Beximco Pharmaceuticals have surfaced in media reports regarding interest shown for the purchase of Sanofi’s shares.
The government has also expressed interest in making the purchase.
Md Abdul Halim, secretary to the industries ministry, said Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC), which owns over 45 percent of Sanofi Bangladesh’s shares, has already expressed interest in buying the rest of the shares.
“Being a partner of Sanofi, the BCIC, a body under the industries ministry, has the priority right to purchase the Sanofi shares,” Halim said, adding that he held a meeting in this regard with the Sanofi’s top executives in Dhaka on November 20.
“We have already expressed our interest in buying the shares,” he said.
To begin with, the ministry does not want the French multinational to pack up its Bangladesh operations as it has been performing well here, said the secretary.
Secondly, if they do finally leave, the BCIC wants to buy the remaining shares to maintain the quality of its medicine and for retaining the employees, he said.
However, the negotiation is still at a very primary level, said Halim.
During the conversation, Sanofi’s top officials said they wanted to leave for strategic reasons despite being a profitable company over the years.
The officials included Charles Billard, chief financial officer for South Asia, Paul Martingell, head of Asia, Philippe Beaufils, head of strategic project-industrial platform, Ramprasad Bhat, country chair, and Muin Uddin Mazumder, managing director.
Sanofi Bangladesh’s documents show that it logged in profits of Tk 42.12 crore last year, up 13.62 percent year-on-year.
Over the last couple of years the year-on-year increase in its turnover ranged from 5 percent to 7 percent, according to Mazumder.
The exit though is a massive blow to the government at a time when it is earnestly looking to attract foreign direct investment.
Sanofi’s top management announced that it will be sold out with the employment guarantee clause so that some 1,100 employees need not lose their jobs.
Sanofi’s share in the country’s pharma market is below 2 percent and in this context it ranks the 17th among the local medicine manufacturers.
Over the last four months employees of Sanofi along with their family members and union leaders have been organising press conferences, rallies and human chains in Dhaka and at its Tongi factory opposing the company’s sale.
The employees said the closure of the 60-year-old Sanofi Bangladesh would create a huge problem for its 1,100 workers. More than 5,000 people are directly involved with the company, if the family members of the employees are considered, they said.