Earlier this week SolarWorld Industries America said it would lay off about 50 workers at it’s manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Oregan. In announcing the layoffs, the company largely fingered China as the reason for the layoffs. But also noted that many of the workers will be eligible for trade-adjustment assistance beyond unemployment because of Chinese PV module importing practices were found to be in violation of World Trade Organization rules.
While SolarWorld is currently laying off about 50 workers, it could layoff up to 100 according to an article in The Oregonian earlier this month. The workers affected grow silicon crystal and cut crystals into solar wafers at the factory. SolarWorld Americas and its parent company SolarWorld in Germany are working on restructuring to become more competitive with the Chinese manufacturers.
SolarWorld, which pushed for the investigation into Chinese PV trade practices in the U.S. and in Europe over the past two years, contended: “Without dumping and subsidies, China has no cost advantage over U.S. manufacturers on wafers or any other aspect of solar production.” It added, “Its state-sponsored producers illegally sell below production costs in the U.S. market. A loophole in the U.S. determinations, however, means that Chinese producers can evade duties by making panels in China using solar cells from other countries.”
“All of our workers had one thing in common: They are committed to U.S. manufacturing jobs in the very industry that their American peers helped pioneer,” said SolarWorld America President Gordon Brinser. “It’s doubly wrenching, therefore, that we have been forced to lay them off as a result of China’s unfair, illegal and unsustainable trade practices. We look forward to a day when China’s illegal and retaliatory trade actions are stopped, so that SolarWorld’s U.S. operations can expand, rehire, and lead the next generation of solar innovation.”
The company said it is idling its crystallization and wafering in Hillsboro to develop new, less expensive technologies both in Hillsboro and in its home country, Germany. “China’s sustained solar import dumping on the U.S. market means the company can no longer continue to produce solar wafers in Hillsboro using conventional crystallization methods.” SolarWorld said.
The workers who will lose their positions in late summer are eligible for the trade-adjustment, “Because the U.S. Department of Labor has determined that Chinese solar-panel imports were a cause of their impending layoffs,” the company said. In addition to normal unemployment benefits, they will have access to job-placement assistance. Their expenses for job searches, relocation and retraining will be paid for and they will receive income support during full-time retraining as well as receiving tax credits to cover their health-insurance premiums.