On November 29 Bayer AG announced it would lay off over 12,000 workers in its animal health business. Although most off the layoffs will be in Germany, where the company is based, there will also be layoffs in North America.
The move comes after the company’s latest acquisition, Monsanto, lost a lawsuit to a school groundskeeper who claimed their weedkiller, Roundup, caused his cancer. The stock price of the company fell 2.3% as of the November 29. Amid market uncertainty at the closing of European markets on December 6, the price was down another 3.4%.
Bayer AG became known to the world by selling acetylsalicylic acid under the trade name Aspirin in 1899. Traditionally a power house in the pharmaceutical industry, Bayer made waves in the agriculture world when it bought Monsanto for $63 billion on June 9, 2018.
Monsanto also produces Roundup, which is marketed worldwide as an herbicide. The company also produced seeds that were genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide, making it easier for farmers to apply in the field.
Roundup, however, is produced from glyphosate—the active ingredient in Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War as part of its herbicidal warfare program. that caused 3 million cases of illness.
The lawsuit that Bayer inherited with the purchase of Monsanto paves the way for many victims of Roundup to sue the company. NPR reports 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson won his lawsuit against Monsanto for $289 million. In August of this year, a Californian court found the company sold Roundup despite the dangers, and that Roundup caused Johnson’s terminal lymphoma.
Bloomberg reports Werner Baumann, the U.S. Chief Executive Officer of Bayer AG, said the “decisions were not made necessary by the recent acquisition, and certainly not by glyphosate litigation in the U.S.” However the company’s stock continued to fall after the statement, as it had done since the ruling. There are currently 9,000 other cases awaiting litigation.
Of the cuts being made, most will be done in the German division of Bayer AG. Only about a third of the 12,000 layoffs will be done in the Monsanto plant science division. The cut represents approximately a tenth of the 118,000 individuals Bayer directly employs. The company has signaled it will outsource more of its pharmaceutical research & development to refocus on its “life sciences” business.
MaxBakie, a fourth-year civil engineering student here at NJIT said, “[The news of the layoffs] seems pretty standard, I don’t think they will get rid of anyone responsible.”
Bayer does have a headquarters in Montville N.J., but the company has not yet disclosed which locations will experience layoffs.
Shanee Halevi, a senior mechanical engineering student, said, “It sucks people are losing their jobs, but I have to go with ‘down with Monsanto’.”
Halevi’s sentiment is widely felt, as protests persist in the German community of Wuppertal, where nearly 1,000 people will lose their jobs.