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The Swiss pharmaceutical company Lonza is finding it very difficult to recruit 1200 workers to join its new plant in southern Switzerland, partly due to tight federal restrictions on work permits for non EU citizens. This is resulting in delays in the production of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine.

On April 10 the director of the Lonza site in Canton Valais, Renzo Cicillini, said Lonza needed 1200 new workers.

In 2020 Lonza signed a ten-year contract with American firm Moderna to supply ingredients for up to one billion doses a year of its Covid vaccine for the global market (excluding the United States).

Cicillini said Lonza had secured 650 new employees from Switzerland, and EU countries such as Germany, France, northern Italy and the United Kingdom.

Work permits a major stumbling block in recruiting the specialists required

The shortage of qualified staff, in particular potential employees from third countries is causing delays in the production of the Moderna vaccine.

For FDP Vice President Philippe Nantermod, the biggest problem lies in the quotas for people from third countries. The canton of Valais is allowed 42 B residence permits and 67 short-term residence permits in 2021 for all its companies. This year the Swiss Federal Council issued a maximum of 4’500 B (long-term) residence permits and 4’000 short-term permits – this for the whole of Switzerland with a population of over 8 Million.

The UK is now also outside the EU, but for the time being, enjoys a special quota of work permits in separately to the above.

On 23 April Philippe Nantermod who is also a member of the National Council for Switzerland, called for exceptions because for specialist and critical companies like Lonza it should be easy to recruit skilled workers worldwide. Restricting to the EU is counterproductive.

If you are a relevant specialist, or a recruitment agency specialising in Pharma workers, especially from the EU – perhaps you should contact Lonza now!

As Switzerland’s most trusted payroll provider, Accurity GmbH has over 20 years’ experience providing clients with the best advice about their payroll, pensions and social security and ensuring they make the right decisions. If you would like to speak with one of our team of experts, simply contact us now. If you are an international recruiter or PEO  looking to work in the Swiss market, contact our team today to see how we can make Switzerland easy for you!