Union leader reacts to Viatris severance deal, strategy to protect jobs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The United Steelworkers Union and Viatris have reached a severance agreement for the estimated 850 workers that will lose work when the Morgantown oral solid dose manufacturing facilities closes July 31. International Vice President, Fred Redmond told WAJR News the plant closing is jarring for the families, but the agreement will help them move forward.

The union has been negotiating with Viatris since March on behalf of the members of Local 8-957.

“We think that the agreement provides some sustainability,” Redmond said,” People will continue to receive pay for a specified period of time, along with medical benefits.”

For the last several years, more companies have opted to move overseas where some reports indicate labor costs can nearly 70 percent cheaper. Those products are sent back to the United States to be sold at retail prices.

“Too often we see in this industry, employers moving off-shore to low-wage countries in order to manufacture their products,” Redmond said,” Then bring them back into the United States to sell them- not just at the expense of the employees, but communities like Morgantown.”

An increasing amount of oral solid dose production capacity has moved off-shore, adding some strategic and security concerns to the Viatris plan to close the facility.

“We need to intensify our efforts legislatively in order to try to eliminate that practice,” Redmond said.

The workers in Morgantown that are likely to lose their jobs do qualify for assistance under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2015. Under the program, eligible workers can get money for additional training, schooling and some supplemental income assistance.

“They qualify for TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance) and TRA (Trade Readjustment Allowance), so they qualify for those benefits that will enable them to go to school and acquire new skills,” Redmond said.

Even as the closure date closes in, efforts have continued to find a way to keep the plant open and save the jobs. Additionally, workers have rallied in Charleston and Washington D.C. in an effort to get lawmakers involved in the search for another operator.

“We’re still getting inquires from private equity people and other pharmaceutical companies because we’re actively shopping that plant,” Redmond said,” We haven’t been able to develop anything positive that I feel comfortable reporting right now.”