Allergan employees have mixed emotions as layoffs loom

Allergan employees have mixed emotions as layoffs loom
Many Allergan employees who are expected to be laid off work at its Irvine headquarters. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Feelings were mixed among Allergan Inc. employees one day after the Botox maker announced 1,500 job cuts, mostly in Southern California.

Outside of Allergan’s Irvine campus, where the bulk of the 650 research and development jobs the company plans to eliminate are located, workers expressed differing views Tuesday on the cuts.

The plans were fodder for lunchtime conversations among employees, who were told about the cuts Monday in a meeting with Allergan executives.

“I think the company’s going to come out pretty lean and mean,” said one employee who declined to be named because he was unauthorized to speak to the media.

He described himself as a fairly low-level employee who was not involved in the decision-making. He said most colleagues he had spoken to about the matter were upbeat and recognized that it was a move to strengthen the company.

But an information technology contractor who works on the campus described a much different attitude among workers.

“You can feel it,” he said. “People are scared, not sure if they’re going to have a job tomorrow.”

He declined to give his name out of concern that it might jeopardize future opportunities with the company. He said he was sad for those losing their jobs.

“It’s hard all around,” he said. “It sucks.”

In addition to the cuts in Irvine, Allergan intends to close facilities in Santa Barbara and Carlsbad, where a combined 400 employees work. Some of those employees are expected to be transferred to Irvine.

The cuts are intended to increase profits and make Allergan more appealing to investors as it attempts to fend off a $53-billion takeover attempt by Canadian rival Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.

Allergan did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. In an interview Monday, Allergan chief David E.I. Pyott said he was pleased with the focus of his employees amid the highly publicized takeover attempt.

Valeant has vowed to slash research spending at Allergan if it acquires the company, a move that it said would significantly improve its profitability. Pyott said the 1,500 jobs he intends to eliminate pale compared with the 5,000 jobs he said Valeant would cut if it acquired the company.

The job cuts, announced Monday as part of a restructuring effort, account for about 13% of Allergan's global workforce of more than 11,000. About 2,300 employees are based at its Irvine headquarters.

The company intends to impose the cuts by Thanksgiving. The restructuring effort is expected to boost stockholder value through improved efficiency and productivity, the company said Monday, while delivering a projected $475 million in pretax savings next year.

One employee said those he works with were unfazed by news of the cuts and are keeping busy with current projects. He also declined to be named because he was unauthorized to speak to the media.

"In my group, it's business as usual," he said. "There's still a lot of work to be done."