More than 2,300 employees in Eli Lilly and Co.’s U.S. operations have volunteered to take a buyout, setting the way for one of the largest group departures from the Indianapolis-based drugmaker in years.
But that number is still a couple of hundred short of Lilly’s goal of cutting 3,500 U.S. jobs by Dec. 31, raising questions about whether the company will turn to layoffs to reach its target.
A large percentage of the buyouts are certain to come from Indianapolis, where Lilly has its headquarters along with several manufacturing operations and a huge research and development center.
Lilly announced in September it would cut 3,500 jobs worldwide, or 8.3 percent of its workforce, by the end of the year in an effort to save $500 million. At the time, Lilly said the move would help it reduce fixed costs and invest more in the “next generation of medicines.”
For Lilly, this will be the largest single workforce reduction since the company announced in 2009 it would cut 5,550 jobs and $1 billion in costs, as it faced a slowing economy and the patent expiration of many of its best-selling drugs.
The company did not provide numbers of how close it is to achieving 3,500 cuts or whether any employees might be laid off.
Lilly on Monday said more than 2,300 employees have opted to accept buyout offers, and that all or nearly all who applied to do so were approved.
The vast majority of them will leave Lilly by Dec. 31, but some will leave next year because their positions are deemed critical.
Lilly spokesman Mark Taylor declined to say if the company was considering layoffs. He said he could provide more information in coming weeks, “once communications to employees is complete.”
“I can tell you we are on track to achieve our stated goals as outlined in the announcement on Sept. 7,” Taylor said in an email.
"In addition to the U.S. voluntary early retirement program, the company will determine where it needs to further reduce costs and improve efficiencies," Taylor said. "Remaining positions will come from other anticipated workforce reductions, including select site closures outlined on Sept. 7 as well as consolidation of some work to existing shared service centers. All streamlining efforts will be consistent with applicable local requirements."
As of June 30, Lilly had 11,312 employees in Indianapolis and 12,528 total in Indiana. More than 18,500 of the company’s 41,241 worldwide employees work in the United States.