Matsushita to trim audio-visual, cell phone unit staff

Matsushita Electric Industrial, better known by its Panasonic brand name, has launched an early retirement program targeted at staff in its consumer electronics and mobile telephone divisions, it said Tuesday.

The company began offering the program in December to the roughly 19,000 staff at its Panasonic Networks Company, which is responsible for products like flat-panel televisions, digital cameras and digital video recorders, and Panasonic Mobile Communications, which is the company's cellular telephone arm.

The program is expected to close shortly and at that time Matsushita will offer more details about the acceptance and cost to the company, said Yoshihiro Kitadeya, a spokesman for the Osaka company.

"If there is some kind of (labor) surplus we have to streamline our operations," he said.

Several local news reports said the company is expecting about 1,000 employees to accept the offer. However, Kitadeya declined to comment on that figure.

At the end of September, Matsushita had 340,000 staff worldwide of which 150,000 were employed by the company in Japan.

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