The company has said that the site, which makes drugs such as the blood-thinner Plavix, is set to close by 2015 resulting in the loss of around 450 jobs.
Despite global sales growth of 4.8% in Q4 2011, annual sales of Plavix fell by 2.1% year-on-year to €2bn. The pharmaceutical sector has been hit by European health spending cuts and greater risk of bringing new products to market.
The Fawdon plant near Newcastle has been closed under part of Sanofi’s restructuring of its R&D and manufacturing operations as it prepares for greater competition from generic rivals to Plavix later in 2012.
The announcement came on the same day of the UK’s latest unemployment figures that revealed the North East has the highest jobless rate in the country.
Linda McCulloch, national officer at Unite union, said: “There was no prior warning and no consultation to close the plant. This would never of been allowed to happen in other EU countries such as France or Germany. The company would have been expected to work with the union to explore ways to keep the site open.
“This company has benefited from the commitment of the local community for decades. The workforce at the company deserve better than being told at a moment’s notice that the site is to close and then being sent home. We are appalled at the way this has been handled – there has been scant regard for the hard working and skilled workforce.”