An Aspen Pharmacare building. Picture: YOLISWA SOBUWA
An Aspen Pharmacare building. Picture: YOLISWA SOBUWA

JSE-listed pharmaceutical manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare has joined a growing list of SA companies retrenching staff, with plans to shed up to 219 jobs at its Port Elizabeth and East London plants as it seeks to remain globally competitive.

The plants manufacture pills and capsules for domestic and export markets.

Aspen is Africa’s biggest drugmaker and has for the past year been disposing of noncore assets to manage its debt burden, which it cut from R53.5bn in December 2018 to R38.9bn by the end of June.

In November, it announced that it plans to sell its Japanese business to Sandoz for up to €400m (R6.5bn), just a few months after the finalisation of the sale of a portfolio of drugs to Mylan for as much as A$188m (R1.9bn), and the disposal of its nutritionals business to French dairy company Lactalis for €635m.

Aspen group operating officer Lorraine Hill said on Thursday the company was working hard to minimise the effects of the retrenchment process.

“This is not something that Aspen takes lightly and is a last resort in a transformation journey that has been transparent and involved employees and their input,” she said.

Staff at Aspen’s affected facilities were issued section 189a notices in December, in line with the Labour Relations Act, which gives management and unions 60 days to find alternatives to job cuts.

Its looming job cuts come hard on the heels of moves by Telkom, Massmart, mining companies Sibanye Gold and Samancor Chrome to trim their workforces.

Samancor is one of the world’s biggest producers of ferrochrome, a key ingredient in stainless steel. It told unions on Monday that up to 2,488 jobs were at risk due to weak chrome prices and an increase in state-owned electricity producer Eskom’s prices. Sibanye Stillwater’s restructuring, announced in September, has seen it shed 1,142 jobs at Marikana.

Last week Massmart said it plans to close its underperforming Dion Wired and Masscash stores, cutting 1,400 posts. A day later Telkom announced that up to 3,000 jobs may have to go as it battles declining performance in its fixed-line and data services.

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