Laid-off US SolarWorld workers receive government aid

By Adrian Bishop - 01 May 2012 13:10:59 GMT
Laid-off US SolarWorld workers receive government aid

Solar panels image via Shutterstock

Workers laid-off from an American solar panel manufacturer after competition from illegally subsidised Chinese imports are to receive Government aid. Many of the 186 former employees of SolarWorld Industries America Inc, in California, can receive federal trade-adjustment assistance, says the US Department of Labor (DoL).

The package includes grants to retrain all manufacturing staff at SolarWorld's Camarillo plant, which operated for 35 years.

Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc, says, "We welcome the federal help that might ease the plight of our former factory workers in Camarillo. But it will neither make them whole nor offset the loss of their pioneering know-how to the world solar industry."

How many more renewable energy industry jobs would be lost in America before effective solutions are found to combat the illegal practices of Big China Solar? he asks.

The DoL ruled that a rise in imports was an important factor in falling production and sales and the ultimate shutdown of the Camarillo company.

The workers can now receive help with finding jobs, relocation, income support throughout full-time training and tax relief on health insurance.

SolarWorld spent many millions of dollars automating the plant in 2006, but it later decided to consolidate its American manufacturing at Hillsboro, in Oregon, which is the largest maker of solar panels in the Western Hemisphere.

The move was prompted by 'illegally subsidized and dumped' products from China, supported by a Government export push, which helped artificially lower prices.

As well as Camarillo, there were 11 other bankruptcies, job losses and shutdowns in the crystalline silicon solar sector in America over the last two years.

In December 2011, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Chinese trade practices were harming the country's manufacturing industry. It has so far concluded that 10 Chinese subsidy schemes are against American and global trade legislation.

In mid-May, the DoL will reveal if the Chinese sector has dumped cheap solar panels and cells onto the American market to damage US competition and by what margins. The results would then be calculated as duties and imposed on Chinese imports.

SolarWorld is a founder of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, which consists of 190 employers and 16,000 staff and is looking to bring trade cases against the manufacturers of subsidised Chinese goods.

SolarWorld is a global leader in branded, top-quality crystalline silicon solar-power products and employs an integrated production system. Its group head office is in Bonn, Germany and it employs around 3,300 people worldwide.

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Topics: Solar Energy / Renewable Energy