SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (Sep 24) that he is "deeply grateful that Panasonic believed in Singapore", after the company announced it would shut refrigeration compressor manufacturing operations in the country.
"Saddened to hear that Panasonic will be closing its factory making refrigeration compressors here," said Mr Lee in a Facebook post.
"We are deeply grateful that Panasonic believed in Singapore and journeyed with us for the better part of our history."
About 700 workers in Singapore will be laid off following Panasonic's move to cease the operations by the end of September next year.
In a news release on Thursday, the company cited a "challenging global business outlook" and its "long-term business strategic review of the refrigeration compressor business portfolio" as the reasons for the decision.
The factory that makes refrigeration compressors has been in Singapore since 1972. Since then, it has produced and shipped 285 million compressors all over the world.
"I personally had the pleasure of joining Panasonic to celebrate the production of their 100 millionth compressor globally in 1989," said Mr Lee.
He added that one-third of the compressors came from the Singapore factory, which was then the second-largest such plant in the world.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the United Workers of Electronics and Electrical Industries will support the affected workers and help them find new jobs, said Mr Lee.
REFRIGERATION COMPRESSOR GLOBAL HQ TO STAY IN SINGAPORE
Although the factory is closing, Panasonic's refrigeration compressor global headquarters, as well as its research and development functions will remain in Singapore, he said.
"Singapore and in particular the Economic Development Board highly value investors like Panasonic and will continue to partner them to create jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans," Mr Lee added.
The Japanese firm said on Thursday that Singapore remains a "regional and important hub" for Panasonic.
"We will continue to invest in Singapore to support our growth strategies in the high-value supply chain and continue contributing to the communities in the Asia Pacific and beyond," it said.
Responding to a reporter's question about the retrenchments at Panasonic, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Friday that a retrenchment task force, with the labour movement and other Government agencies are "at the forefront" helping workers who have been retrenched.
"They're also working with a company to see how we can match them with the new jobs that are available. I think the situation that we have today, as we also shared in one of my earlier reports is that we currently have more vacancies than there are job seekers," said Dr Tan.
"So, we hope to be able to replace them as quickly as possible."