SolarWorld Americas Inc., the largest U.S. crystalline-silicon solar-technology manufacturer for more than 42 years, expressed gratitude for the U.S. Labor Department’s determination that more than 300 employees laid off this summer as a result of a surge of imports are eligible for federal trade-adjustment assistance.
According to SolarWorld Americas, the Labor Department determination is further confirmation of the unanimous finding of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Sept. 22 that the import surge has seriously injured the domestic solar cell and panel manufacturing industry. SolarWorld and Suniva Inc., which is bankrupt, made that claim in a Section 201 trade case before the ITC.
The Labor Department’s determination that a surge of imports helped cause the layoffs resulted from an investigation over recent months by the Department’s Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance, which recently notified SolarWorld Americas about its decision.
The decision means that many of the impacted employees may be eligible to tap federal assistance with job placement; expenses for job searches, relocation and retraining; income support during full-time retraining; and a tax credit on health-insurance premiums.
U.S. law dictates that the Labor Department may certify workers adversely impacted by imports for trade-adjustment assistance only if it finds that an increase in competing imports “contributed importantly” to the decline in sales or production of a firm and to the cause for worker layoffs.
Nearly 30 U.S. solar-panel producers ceased manufacturing operations from 2012 to 2016, the period of investigation in the case, according to ITC figures. During this period, global imports increased nearly five-fold. This surge was led by China, whose imports rose by more than 700 percent, according to ITC data.
“We are grateful for the federal aid that will help our former workers regain their employment footing,” said Juergen Stein, CEO and president of SolarWorld Americas. “We also are heartened that yet another federal agency has confirmed our contention about the role of imports in those layoffs.”
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