SSL coronavirus news: LIA reports on survey, Cooper Lighting closes maquiladora

April 22, 2020
The UK-based Lighting Industry Association surveyed its members, reporting 89% of companies are still operating at some level, while the Mexican government shutters a Cooper Lighting plant.

The Lighting Industry Association (LIA) that represents UK-based lighting manufacturers and also manufacturers from around the globe that sell into the UK has announced the results of a survey of its members relative to operations during the coronavirus pandemic. The vast majority are still operating at some level, although on average the companies report that 44% of staff is furloughed. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times (LA Times) newspaper has reported that a Cooper Lighting maquiladora factory located in the Mexican state of Baja California was operating inappropriately and has subsequently been closed.

Survey says

We will get to the LIA survey shortly, but we’d remind everyone that we also fielded a survey relative to the impact of the coronavirus on the LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) sectors. You can peruse those results in a recent blog post. Only 12% of the respondents in our survey had been furloughed; however, we fielded our research earlier than did the LIA.

Back to the LIA research, the good news is the 89% of businesses surveyed are operating at some level and 85% reported no instance of COVID-19 among their employees. But only around 55% of the LIA respondents said their company was still manufacturing products. Around 90% have active sales and shipping operations ongoing.

Still, the LIA respondents seem optimistic as to the future. For now, the respondents report that the supply chain is constrained. But 71% report that their company has a recovery plan in place to launch once the lockdown is over. You can peruse the full results of the survey on the LIA website.

Mexican maquiladoras

Moving to the Cooper Lighting factory, the news of the shutdown was just a small item in a much larger article on US factories in Mexico and unfair treatment of Mexican workers afflicted with COVID-19. We would note that the article did not make that specific claim about the Cooper factory that is located in the city of Mexicali. Such maquiladora factories are valuable because of a low-cost and skilled workforce just across the border from the US, and the fact that the subsystems produced incur minimum tariffs when brought into the US for integration into finished products.

The newspaper article said the Cooper factory was closed by government inspectors with the closure announced by Baja California State Labor Secretary Sergio Moctezuma Martinez. Apparently, the closure was ordered because the Cooper operation was not considered an essential industry. We’ve covered the issue of essential or critical industries here in the US that are allowed to continue and operate. We’d presume that the Cooper supply chain would be considered essential in the US.

The newspaper article, however, also alleged that Cooper was locking employees inside the factory for the duration of a work shift. The implication seemed to be that sick workers could not leave. We asked Cooper for a comment and learned that the gates with the chains mentioned in the article were only opened to allow ingress and egress of large numbers of employees during shift changes while the main entrance to the facility remained open during shifts.

A Cooper spokesperson said:

“Our facility in Mexicali has numerous entrances. Our main guard station is our primary entrance offering secure, 24-hour access. The entrance referenced in the article is a separate entrance that is only utilized at the start and end of each shift. Workers can exit the primary entrance at any other time. The locks at this entrance are currently broken and chains are being used as a temporary security solution. We are in the process of fixing the locks.

“In terms of operations, we complied with the authorities request immediately, and the factory is temporarily closed. We are communicating with local officials to determine our return to operations, which would include continuing to follow our stringent guidelines for personal protection, hygiene and health.

“Our first priority is the health, safety and well-being of our employees, customers, partners and people around us. Since early January, we have implemented many preventive and protective measures and our local response has been very stringent personal protection and hygiene and health measures in our plant. As a responsible company, we see it as our duty to help to contain the issue, and we have not wavered from this responsibility.”

For up-to-the-minute LED and SSL updates, why not follow us on Twitter? You’ll find curated content and commentary, as well as information on industry events, webcasts, and surveys on our LinkedIn Company Page and our Facebook page.