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SMA Confirms Deep Layoffs in Germany, 800 Workers Affected

Solar inverter maker SMA Solar Technology has clarified its plans for cutting back its workforce in Germany, a little over a month after acknowledging that tough market conditions would make such a move necessary — and the cutbacks are nearly as deep as feared.

In mid-May, while discussing soft fiscal 1Q13 results and an overall "a strong decline in demand" for PV inverters, SMA management acknowledged that productivity improvements and supply-chain belt-tightening would not be enough to make up for sales that have shrunk to half what they were two years ago. Local reports suggested that the subsequent headcount reduction, mainly in Germany and in administrative areas, could top 1,000 employees. 

"Constructive negotiations" have been ongoing with the Works Council to see through personnel adjustments "in the most socially responsible way," including the possibility of voluntary separation of transferring affected employees to "a transitional company." But beyond that, it's managing board reiterates "compulsory terminations for operational reasons" may be necessary.

Those layoff plans have now been broadcast to all employees and are being made public: 800 employees, including 700 full-time positions and 100 part-time jobs, will be eliminated by the end of 2014. By that point SMA will have about 3,000 employees in Germany. At the end of last year the company had 4,649 domestic full-time employees out of 5,600 worldwide, both numbers roughly flat with 2011, according to its annual report. (During better times, in 2011 the company received a "Great Place to Work" award in Germany for large companies.)

"The planned downsizing is unavoidable if SMA is to emerge strengthened from the current consolidation phase in the solar sector," stated CEO Pierre-Pascal Urbon." At the same time, SMA will continue to invest in technology development (IT and development specialists are not part of these layoffs), and the company's board reiterates "the long-term prospects in the industry and for the company are good."

Lead image: Sun and umbrella, via Shutterstock

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