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US-headquartered high-efficiency PV module producer SunPower Corp has announced plans to reduce its workforce by 3%, due to the Section 201 trade case decision by US President Trump to impose new import tariffs of solar cells and modules imported into the country. 

SunPower said in a financial filing that it expected reduce its global workforce by 3%, accounting for between 150 to 250 non-manufacturing jobs. An unspecified portion of the job losses would be undertaken as part of a voluntary departure program.

The company will incur restructuring charges of approximately US$20 million to US$30 million, primarily through severance benefits that were stated to be between US$11 million to US$16 million). Other charges relate to real estate lease termination and other associated costs put at between US$9 million to US$14 million. 

The cash charges are expected to be between US$17 million and US$25 million and will be incurred in the first and second quarters of fiscal 2018.

SunPower has undergone several restructuring rounds since 2015 with the closure of older manufacturing facilities in the Philippines (cell & module) and South Africa (module) as well as job losses in its downstream PV power plant business and other non-manufacturing jobs. 

In tandem, the company expanded its module assembly operations in Mexico to consolidate the majority of assembly, including its new P-Series modules, using solar cells from China at one facility. 

Despite the job losses, due to restructuring efforts in 2015 and 2016, SunPower’s workforce actually increased both in manufacturing and non-manufacturing segments through that period. The company does not provide information in its annual reports regarding the workforce numbers in Mexico.

However, the restructuring finally worked through in 2017 as the workforce was reduced from 8,902 to 7,306 by the end of 2017, more than a 17% reduction, according to SunPower’s annual report.

As expected, manufacturing jobs in the Philippines took the brunt of the restructuring with total manufacturing jobs declining from 6,588 to 5,206 at the end of 2017, almost a 21% reduction from the prior year. 

At the end of 2017, SunPower employed 1,883 in the Philippines, down from 3,588 at the end of 2016, more than a 47% reduction year-on-year.
 

The restructuring finally worked through in 2017 as the workforce was reduced from 8,902 to 7,306 by the end of 2017, more than a 17% reduction, according to SunPower’s annual report.

The restructuring finally worked through in 2017 as the workforce was reduced from 8,902 to 7,306 by the end of 2017, more than a 17% reduction, according to SunPower’s annual report.

R&D workforce slashed

In 2016, SunPower employed 406 people that were allocated to all R&D activities and had R&D spending of US$116.1 million. However, R&D jobs and R&D spending were slashed in 2017. 

The R&D workforce was reduced to 282, a 29% reduction in 2017, while R&D expenditure declined to US$80.7 million. However, SunPower also opened a new R&D pilot line at its headquarters in California in 2017.

The R&D workforce was reduced to 282, a 29% reduction in 2017.

The R&D workforce was reduced to 282, a 29% reduction in 2017.

According to PV Tech’s annual analysis of R&D spending and R&D personnel numbers, SunPower had been a major leader in the field, only CdTe thin-film leader First Solar spent more on R&D expenditure than SunPower over the last 10 years.

SunPower had been a major leader in the field, only CdTe thin-film leader First Solar spent more on R&D expenditure than SunPower over the last 10 years.

SunPower had been a major leader in the field, only CdTe thin-film leader First Solar spent more on R&D expenditure than SunPower over the last 10 years.

Tags: sunpower corporation, c-si manufacturing, solar cell, pv modules, pv power plants, ibc solar cell, usa, philippines, china, mexico, south africa

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