Multinational drug company Sun Pharmaceuticals has slashed workers at its Port Fairy plant as its Australian operation haemorrhages millions of dollars.
The employees were told they were being made redundant without any notice at a 6.30am meeting on September 20, devastating the workers and enraging the United Workers Union, which called the sackings an "atrocious" example of "industrial lawlessness".
UWU director of allied industries Godfrey Moase told The Standard the union would take legal action over what he said was flouting of proper termination processes.
"Imagine you rock up to work, there's an announcement there's a meeting, and you're told you've lost your job. It's like breaking up with your husband of 30 years via text message," Mr Moase said.
"It reflects the fact the company thinks it's above the law, it's outright industrial lawlessness.
"We will be legally contesting this behaviour."
The Standard understands about 30 workers were called into the meeting where they were told there would be a number of redundancies at the plant. At the end of the meeting seven "operators" were asked to remain behind and they were told they had lost their jobs.
Aside from the seven permanent staff made redundant, a number of casual employees were also sacked.
The financial statement for Sun Pharma's Australian operation showed the company lost more than $20 million in the year ending March 2022. A company spokesperson said the redundancies were a reflection of the declining global demand for opiates.
"There's been a steady decrease in the global market for opiate raw material, and a return to the large volumes of pre-2015 is not expected," the spokesperson said.
"These organisational changes are reflective of what is happening in the global opiates market. But the Port Fairy operation continues to be an integral part of Sun Pharmaceutical's farm to pharmacy supply chain across multiple global Sun Pharmaceutical sites.
"Sun Pharmaceutical continues to pursue opportunities to diversify the Port Fairy operation, evidenced in the recent multi-million dollar capital investment in the state-of-the-art medicinal cannabis extraction facility, which is currently being commissioned."
The company was asked if more redundancies were possible and it declined to comment.
Mr Moase said Sun Pharma's business problems were no excuse for the way the dismissals were performed.
"We're not disputing the fact opioid manufacturing is going through challenges but that doesn't necessitate acting unlawfully," Mr Moase said.
"Treating these sorts of workers like scrap runs counter to what we need to do to build a high quality advanced manufacturing industry in Australia.
"They've shown a wilful disregard of their industrial obligations."
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