Shutdown continues at Hanergy-owned Alta Devices, high-efficiency PV pioneer

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Alta Devices has not located a white-knight investor to save the company and resume its PV cell production.

Early in December, pv magazine broke the story that Hanergy-owned Alta Devices, the world record efficiency holder for single-junction solar cells, furloughed almost all of its Sunnyvale, California staff without pay, notice, or PTO.

A  statement from COO Charles Marino on December 9 contended: “I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached between Alta Devices and Hanergy, to allow Alta to bring in outside investors to breathe new life into the company, and to get the thin film GaAs technology leader back on track.”

However, a December 29 email from Alta management, obtained by pv magazine and excerpted below, tells a different story.

As of tonight, we have not received any funding from Hanergy.  If funding does not arrive by December 31st to allow us to pay the December premiums, December benefits will be terminated with an effective date of December 1st due to non-payment.  Unfortunately, what this means is that the health provider will look to you for payment of the health services; medical, dental, and vision incurred during the month of December.

And since the plans are terminated, COBRA is not an option to join.  Those that have an option to join their spousal coverage, should do so ASAP. In some cases, you may be able to  enroll onto their plan for coverage beginning Jan. 1st.  For those enrolling through open market such as Obamacare/Covered California, the earliest coverage date you can enroll into would be Feb 1.

Given the financial situation, the shutdown will continue until further notice.

An ex-employee notes, “The landlord has repossessed the building, which is now off-limits to Alta staff,” and “the lender of last resort (Utica) now owns the equipment and the IP since Alta defaulted on the loan,” adding, “Employees will be soon filing a class action lawsuit against Alta and Hanergy, asking for all back pay and invoking a clear case for WARN trigger.”

Alta’s 250 employees lost wages, vacation time, sick time, and expense reimbursement when the plant was closed. The U.S. WARN Act requires that an employer provide “notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.” There are exceptions to the 60-day notice for “faltering companies” and “unforeseen business circumstances.

Hanergy has behaved with similar disregard for employees at its other U.S. and European solar acquisitions.