Smith & Nephew CEO Olivier Bohuon is backing away from his company's initial statements that blamed last week's layoffs in Memphis on taxes mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The CEO was asked about the layoffs during a conference call Thursday.
"This is just the follow-up of the value plan, so there's nothing new on this," Bohuon said on the call. "This has to do with us willing to be fit and effective for the future. So this is nothing new; this is just a plan."
The CEO confirmed 63 Memphis based workers lost their jobs.
Bohuon suggested Memphis news outlets including Fox 13 News reported the story incorrectly.
"So what Fox TV in Memphis or the Memphis Time [sic] has written is just wrong. It's just a mix of things in the environment that we have seen a year ago having driven us to make the changes we are making and this is why it's -- it is what it is," Bohuon said.
But when the layoffs were announced Jan. 31, company representative Joe Metzger released this statement:
"The nearly $30 billion tax on medical devices that took effect Jan. 1, 2013, has impacted a number of companies across the U.S. Unfortunately, and in order to absorb this cost burden into our business, this has meant less than 100 positions have been made redundant across various departmental functions in our Tennessee and Massachusetts sites. The company is providing the affected employees with a comprehensive severance package and outplacement support."
On Friday, Metzger e-mailed FOX13 News this follow-up statement:
"The statements are consistent, one being the global perspective provided by our CEO, and the other being a response specific to our US business," Metzger said.
"As stated, Smith & Nephew in the US took a number of actions that resulted in the loss of less than a hundred positions in Tennessee and Massachusetts, citing a need to reduce costs locally to help absorb the impact of the new medical device excise tax.
"Simultaneously in Europe, we also announced a reduction in staff and plans to shut a facility in Belgium due the need to counter the effects of the continuing austerity measures in Europe.
"The Company communicated both these reasons, as well as increasing regulatory cost globally, to all employees.
"At a global level, these and previously disclosed actions, fall under the three year efficiency program or ‘value plan', announced in late 2011, to ensure Smith & Nephew has the right cost base for prevailing market conditions."