Panasonic uses thuggish methods ahead of the impending closure of its Sion site

Panasonic has confirmed plans to close its Sion site on 31 October 2019. Unia has found the multinational unwilling to negotiate and employing underhand and outright scandalous tactics. For instance, workers set to lose their jobs are being denied severance pay unless they agree to waive one of their basic rights – protection from dismissal if they are unfit to work. The company also declined to attend an arbitration hearing before the cantonal authorities.

Following the consultation period, which opened on 11 June, Panasonic confirmed that it plans to close the NewSat Communications SA / ITC Global site in Sion on 31 October 2019.
Employees put forward several proposals to safeguard jobs at the site. The Panasonic delegation, led by Ian Dawkins and advised by law firm Eversheds-Sutherland in Geneva, rejected the proposals outright. Ten employees will be made redundant on 31 October and a further six have been offered work-from-home arrangements, although the offers are short on detail.
In the course of our meetings and email correspondence with Panasonic, we found that the proposed compensation packages fall well below industry norms and standard practice among other multinationals such as Tamoil, Constellium, Huntsman and Merck Serono. More worrying still, it has come to our attention that the firm is strong-arming employees who are set to lose their jobs.
Panasonic is denying workers severance pay unless they waive their right to protection from dismissal and to carried-over leave if they are unfit to work – something to which they are entitled under Article 336c of the Swiss Code of Obligations. Forcing employees to give up this most basic of rights is both immoral and financially detrimental. Moreover, this unfair condition could adversely affect workers’ entitlement to unemployment benefit.
Panasonic’s actions pose a clear and present danger to the health of employees already having to deal with the prospect of losing their jobs.
To add insult to injury, Panasonic is refusing to grant employees full severance pay unless they stay with the company until 31 October. Anyone who leaves before that date will see a pro-rata reduction in the amount they receive. This petty-mindedness, which goes against the values that Panasonic itself claims to uphold, points to contempt on a scale never seen before in collective redundancy proceedings.
To make matters worse, the company declined to attend an arbitration hearing after two cantonal authorities – the Department of Industry, Trade and Employment (SICT) and the Department of Worker Protection and Labour Relations (SPT) – agreed to set up the meeting to reach a mutually acceptable solution on two outstanding issues: the date on which employees’ contracts would be terminated, and protections for employees who are unfit to work.
For further information, contact:
Blaise Carron, Unia Valais, +41 79 668 64 57