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Panasonic retrenching 700 workers, to stop manufacturing refrigeration compressors in Singapore

LaksaNews

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SINGAPORE: Panasonic is laying off 700 workers in Singapore as it moves to shut its refrigeration compressor manufacturing operations in the country.

This is due to the "challenging global business outlook" and Panasonic's "long-term business strategic review of the refrigeration compressor business portfolio", said the Japanese firm in a media release on Thursday (Sep 23).

Operations of the affected unit will cease by the end of September next year. The layoffs represent about one-third of its workforce in Singapore.

Panasonic said it will consolidate the compressor manufacturing operations to existing facilities in Malaysia and China. Casting operations will be done at its Malaysian factory in Melaka.

The company's research and development department will continue to operate in Singapore, which remains the headquarters of the firm's refrigeration compressor business.

Panasonic said that Singapore remains a "regional and important hub" for the electronics giant.

"The Panasonic group in Singapore will continue to have more than 1,400 employees across various business domains, including high-value manufacturing, R&D and our Asia Pacific headquarters," it said.

"We will continue to invest in Singapore to support our growth strategies in the high-value supply chain and continue contributing to the communities in the Asia Pacific and beyond."

In response to CNA's queries, a Panasonic spokesperson said about 800 employees work at Panasonic Appliances Refrigeration Devices Singapore.

The unit, which has operated in Singapore for 49 years, manufactures items like inverter compressors for fridges, water coolers and vending machines.

About 700 employees are affected by the retrenchment exercise. They were informed of the decision on Thursday morning.

"We are working very closely with the relevant authorities, government agencies, and United Workers of Electronics & Electrical Industries (UWEEI) to ensure all affected employees are well-supported during this transition, including assisting with job placements," said Panasonic in its media release.

LIVELIHOODS OF AFFECTED WORKERS A PRIORITY: UNION​


UWEEI said it will continue working closely with Panasonic Appliances Refrigeration Devices Singapore (PAPRDSG) "to ensure that affected employees receive the necessary assistance and support so that they receive fair treatment".

"The company is committed to paying employees the retrenchment benefits stipulated in the Collective Agreement, which is higher than industry norms," said the union in a media statement on Thursday.

The livelihoods of the affected workers remain its priority, it added.

"The close partnership between PAPRDSG, UWEEI and the Economic Development Board (EDB) has been instrumental to ensure that the retrenchment exercise will be carried out in a transparent, fair, and responsible manner."

It added that it has been working closely with NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) and EDB to provide job placement assistance to affected employees.

"The union is also working with other unionised companies that may have vacancies in the same or adjacent sectors," it said.

Arrangements have also been made for affected employees to attend virtual or physical job fairs and employability workshops.

For employees who need to undergo training to upskill or reskill, e2i will facilitate the training before matching them to suitable companies, said the union.

For UWEEI members, they may use the Union Training Assistance Programme fund to offset training courses.

The union said it will also assist other members who may face financial hardship through various assistance programmes.

In a Facebook post on Thursday night, NTUC deputy secretary-general Chee Hong Tat commended the management for working closely with the union "to come up with a fair retrenchment package".

He added that the retrenchment will take place in two batches - March and September next year.

"I spoke to some of the affected workers. They are sad to see the production line closing down as they have been working here for many years, but they understood why the company had to take this painful decision," said Mr Chee, who is also executive secretary of UWEEI.

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