British multinational GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced the aim to cut 720 jobs in its Belgian operation, based in Rixensart and Wavre in Walloon Brabant and Gembloux in Namur province.

The decision was announced today following an extraordinary board meeting in Wavre. The company employs about 9,000 people at its three vaccine units in Belgium.

The figure of 720 was a maximum forecast, said spokesperson Elizabeth Van Damme. “These are mainly executive positions. About 215 temporary contracts will likely not be renewed,” she said.

The news comes as the climax to growing concern within the Belgian company since October last year when GSK began cutting a number of management functions at the Wavre and Rixensart sites of GSK Vaccines.

The news today includes the division of the company into two: one the one side, consumer health-care; on the other, New GSK, focussing on R&D in the fields of immunotherapy, genetics and new technologies.

GSK is Belgium’s largest pharmaceuticals company, and the largest private-sector employer in Wallonia, with some 7,000 jobs indirectly depending on the company, aside from the 9,000 direct employees.

The company’s Wavre site is also the biggest pharmaceuticals factory in the world, the workplace for 7,000 people. The factory covers and area of 70 football pitches, and delivers more than two million doses of vaccine every day to 160 countries. The company has a portfolio of more than 30 vaccines for babies, young people and adults, and another 16 in development. The current portfolio includes vaccines against the flu, hepatitis B, polio and the MMR vaccine, among others.

The R&D department at Rixensart employs around 1,000 people, with another 100 in Gembloux. A meeting between GSK and the Walloon economy minister, Willy Borsus, is due to take place tomorrow.

Later today a meeting will be held of the European board of the company. Under Belgian law, the announcement of a round of collective redundancies triggers the so-called Renault procedure, which imposes consultations between the company and employee representatives.