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Philips closes shop leaving 320 jobless

‘Mantoetse Maama

Philips Lighting Factory closed shop on Thursday, leaving 320 breadwinners stranded and in a state of shock.
The company, based at the Thetsane Industrial Park in Maseru, was opened in 2009 and 10 percent of its workers were living with disability.
The factory produced energy-efficient, compact fluorescent lamps mainly for the South African market.

According to the company’s senior communications manager, Nick Kelso, this was purely a “market-decision” based on viability.
“On Thursday afternoon, we informed our employees that we had decided to close down the factory due to the fact that the market has changed.

The world is changing to digital lighting technology and demand for our products was becoming less, thereby affecting our profits,” Kelso said.
“The market is moving to the new type of lights so it was not viable to change to the required market because doing so would mean a totally new investment.

“We needed new machinery to produce the new products, which we could not afford, which is why we decided to close shop.
“We gave our employees all their benefits and have doubled the packages. This was more than generous, I believe. The notice runs from March 6 to April 6 but then, since there is no production, we have asked the workers not to come to work but they will get paid for this notice period.”
One of the workers, who refused to be identified, however, said the development confirmed what some senior managers have always been warning the workers about regarding the market-trends.

“It was a complete shock to us, as employees, but also a confirmation as the general manager had always informed us about the state of the market.
“He told us that our factory had been struggling to make profits as most of the materials used were imported from China and that our factory was competing with companies from China that were selling their products far cheaper than us,” the employee said.

He further said the workers were happy that the management did not disappear with their monies as has happened with other factories.
“In our factory, we never experienced any industrial disputes so we never complained when we heard about the issue. We have been working well in this company so we understand that this was a business decision.

“Our employer had offered scholarships for some employees’ children, and the management has promised to continue sponsoring those children until they complete their studies. It is such a tragedy that the company has been forced to shut down.”

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