The AVR’s 69th Annual General Meeting

“The past year was extremely challenging and there won’t be much time to catch our breath this year either as things will continue in much the same vein.” These were the words with which Adnan Tanglay, President of the Roche Employees’ Association (AVR), welcomed the more than 200 AVR members who attended the 69th Annual General Meeting in the auditorium of Building 1 in Basel at 4 p.m. on Thursday 28 March. Numerous guests were also present – for example from the Executive Committee, Human Resources and affiliated organisations such as the Novartis Employee Association.

A musical surprise

A surprise for the audience and a common theme throughout the AGM was provided by the Arc-en-cielensemble, comprising five musicians from the Basel Symphony Orchestra, which performed between the individual blocks and reflected the mood of what had been said in musical form. On the subject of restructuring, for instance, the ensemble played the turbulent piece Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. They represented the confrontational and emotionally tense atmosphere of the salary negotiations with the second movement of Jacques Ibert’s Deux Interludes, Allegro vivo, and they played Romance, Intermezzo, Villanelle by Anselme Vinée to portray a more harmonious, conciliatory mood, such as when an agreement is reached.

Review of 2018

In 2018, the AVR had to deal with several larger and smaller reorganisations at the same time, including Global Infrastructure & Solutions (GIS), One Procurement and Pharma Development/Clinical Operations (PDG). “In the process, we did everything we could to ensure that optimal solutions were found for our affected colleagues and that as few people as possible lost their jobs,” Tanglay explained.

Pleasingly, the AVR also managed to agree a payroll increase of 1.2 percent with management last year. Meetings were held with CEO Dr Severin Schwan in January and August at which the AVR could ask questions and chat to Mr Schwan. The cooperation with the Human Resources department was also successful, as was shown in the Key Account Management (KAM) concept for individual areas of human resources. “This culture of actively maintaining contacts and business relationships is deeply embedded at Roche and the AVR. It is our recipe for success,” Tanglay emphasised.

The elections at the end of November were the most important internal event at the AVR. One pensioners’ representative and 14 site representatives were elected, including four new faces (Susanne Löffler, Salieu Jalloh, Justine Frank and Oliver Strobel). At the AGM, the AVR President said goodbye to the departing Board members Alexandre Zimmermann, Dr Arel Su, Karlheinz Geng and Rolf Baumgartner and thanked them for their many years of dedication.

The AVR is clearly becoming more well-known all the time, as a glance at the membership statistics shows. From 2013 to 2018, the number of Roche employees rose by around 14 percent (from 10,315 to 11,746), whereas the number of AVR members increased by approximately 33 percent in the same period (from 4,631 to 6,147). “This is something I am really proud of,” said Tanglay.

Annual financial statements and membership subscription fees

Treasurer Andreas Winkler presented the annual financial statements, which included expenses of CHF 469,749, income of CHF 575,734 and an overall result of CHF 105,985. Having been raised from CHF 15 to CHF 20 last year, the first increase in 32 years, the AVR membership subscription fee will remain the same this year. “The next AVR generation but one might propose another five-franc subscription fee hike in 2050. Who knows how many towers Roche will have built by then and which of the current Board members will still be present?” Tanglay joked. Membership would remain free of charge for pensioners anyway, he added. However, this was precisely what the man who spoke next, pensioner Walter Stamm, wanted to change, proposing that pensioners should also pay an AVR membership subscription fee. This does not make sense, the AVR President replied, as additional income and personnel costs more or less balance each other out. Stamm now plans to submit a written motion at the next AGM.

Outlook for 2019

“We will have to shift up at least one gear in order to meet the quickly changing demands in areas such as agility, flexibility and digitisation,” said Tanglay in his outlook for the current year. To get the AVR into shape for these and other challenges, the site representatives will receive training in employment law from Sandra Klemm of the internal legal department at the Off-site Meeting in June, for example. In addition, a relaunch of the website will enhance the external visibility of the AVR’s activities.

Guest presentation

A particular highlight was in store for the AVR members present towards the end of the AGM. Dr Stephan Feldhaus, Head of Group Communications since 2010, gave a brilliant presentation entitled “Compromise: an ethical emergency”. “Today I would like to speak about the internal decision-making process that leads to responsible action,” he explained. On the one hand we need values and on the other an ethos, i.e. a basic moral attitude, that is characterised among other things by a willingness to compare risks and consequences consistently and conscientiously. In every situation, we must carefully weigh up what is the lesser evil: to act or not to act. “Quite often, we find ourselves compelled to choose the smallest possible evil as the greatest possible good,” Feldhaus said. He ended his presentation with the words: “Nothing comes off seamlessly. Everything has its price. There is no conflict-free morality.”

Drinks reception

The AGM came to an end at 6.20 p.m. and the guests flocked – their minds full of impressions – into the Avenue staff restaurant on the third floor and the Terrazza cafeteria on the fourth floor for a drinks reception. There, they were spoiled with the very finest drinks and canapés by the Tavero AG team and had an opportunity to chat about what they had just experienced.

The next Annual General Meeting is scheduled to be held on 26 March 2020 in the auditorium of Building 1.