88 jobs to go at Becton Dickinson Baltimore Co. workers will learn their fate tomorrow

Fine-tuning and pink slips

'A difficult time for all of us,' unit president says

November 18, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Becton Dickinson & Co. Inc., a New Jersey-based medical supply company, tomorrow will cut 88 jobs from its Baltimore County work force of 1,700.

In a memo on Friday, Vince Forlenza, the president of Becton Dickinson Microbiology Systems (BDMS), told workers in two facilities in Hunt Valley and Sparks that most of the positions being eliminated are "managerial, supervisory and administrative jobs." He said individuals would be notified tomorrow.

"I realize this is a difficult time for all of us," Forlenza wrote. "Right now we should focus on supporting our colleagues who are affected by this action and on continuing to meet our customers' needs. We will emerge a stronger microbiology business for our 1,600 Baltimore-based employees."

BDMS, a division of Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based Becton Dickinson, employs all of the company's workers in Baltimore County. BDMS has about 2,500 employees worldwide, with locations in Wisconsin, Puerto Rico, Germany, France, Japan and Australia. Among the division's products is diagnostic equipment to detect strep throat and tuberculosis.

Becton Dickinson, which employs about 18,000 people worldwide, recently reported that net income last year increased 13 percent to $283 million.

The company does not release the net income of divisions such as BDMS. But BDMS officials said yesterday that the division's worldwide sales, now about $500 million, have made "single-digit" increases in recent quarters.

Forlenza told Baltimore workers in a memo Nov. 1 that "consolidation and spending reductions in the health care industry" have forced the company to reduce spending and cut jobs. He said the pressures "have resulted in our not meeting our own expectations or the corporation's expectations for this business."

He did not provide a number in that memo, but said the company would complete the job cuts within a month.

The Sun reported the contents of Forlenza's memo in Thursday's editions. The same day, some workers having lunch with vTC Forlenza asked him to elaborate on the newspaper report. Forlenza, who regularly has lunch with small groups of employees, responded that about 80 jobs would be eliminated.

A copy of what appears to be an employee's summary of the meeting was provided to The Sun Friday. Stephen Kaiser, a BDMS spokesman, at first declined comment, saying he had not seen the summary. "I'm sure the company will stick by its philosophy of wanting to tell workers [of its plans] before announcing them publicly," Kaiser said.

But later Friday, Forlenza wrote employees the memo saying that 88 people would lose their jobs. In the memo, which was released by the company, he promised "outplacement" help and a "comprehensive severance" package. "I can assure you that the people whose jobs are being eliminated will be treated fairly," he wrote.

Jerry Hurwitz, BDMS' director of human resources, said the salaries of the eliminated jobs range from about $25,000 to about $80,000. Some of the eliminations will take effect immediately and others will take effect at the end of the year. He said the responsibilities of the departing employees will be handled by other Baltimore workers.

Hurwitz said the company has no intention of cutting deeper or abandoning Baltimore.

"Vince wants people to know this is a fine-tuning, and it doesn't indicate that the business isn't healthy and that we aren't committed to the business here," Hurwitz said. "There's only one scenario and that's to grow the business in Baltimore."

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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