SolarWorld to cut 300 jobs in Europe thanks to Chinese “dumping”

SolarWorld AG will cut 250 to 300 jobs in Germany thanks to government subsidy cuts and alleged dumping of Chinese solar products on the European market.

The company employs 3,300 globally and will cut the aforementioned positions from its production facility in Saxony, Germany. The facility currently has 1,800 employees, meaning this cut could reduce the staff by 16 percent. Germany’s biggest solar firm expects these cuts to be complete by the end of 2012.

SolarWorld AG is the parent company of SolarWorld Industries America, the firm leading the push for import tariffs on Chinese solar cells entering the U.S. SolarWorld alleges that, as in the U.S., Chinese firms have been dumping solar products at below production cost on the German market.

“The main reason is Chinese unfair trade behavior, but this is an additional burden — that several European companies, especially Germany and Italy, are cutting their feed-in tariffs,” said SolarWorld’s spokesperson Milan Nitzschke. “This is another burden coming at exactly the wrong point in time.”

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A worker at SolarWorld's factory in Freiburg, Germany. Photo Credit: SolarWorld AG

Nitzschke said that the job cuts in Germany would be primarily by ending temp-worker contracts rather than outright layoffs.

Speaking to a potential trade case to protect against the risk of more European solar firms going bankrupt, Nitzschke said “we have to do that very fast because month-by-month we are losing companies in Europe.”

SolarWorld CEO Frank Asbeck told Bloomberg that the trade complaint could move forward in one of three ways: either the firm itself files a complaint with the European Commission, individual EU member states or the EU Commission itself could start an investigation.

“I’m confident that one of the three options will be taken [in June],” Asbeck said. “We then expect timely proceedings so that we could see first results in the spring.”

In fact, many are speculating that the government may step in by the end of the month after Environment Minister Peter Altmaier told WirtschaftsWoche business magazine that the German government may file a trade complaint against China to show the government’s support for the German solar industry.

According to Bloomberg, at least five German solar companies have filed for bankruptcy since December, straining under the pressure of a global oversupply of Chinese solar products.

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