UK workers at risk as Amazon axes 18,000 jobs globally

A shopper leaves the UK's first Amazon Fresh supermarket in London, Britain, March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
The online retailer said most of the job losses will come from its shops including Amazon Fresh and Go. Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Amazon (AMZN) is cutting 18,000 jobs – the biggest round of layoffs in the company's history in a move that will affect workers in the UK.

The online retailer said most of the job losses will come from its shops including Amazon Fresh and Go and its human resources division.

The cuts amount to 6% of the company's roughly 300,000-person corporate workforce. It has a global workforce of more than 1.5 million.

It is understood jobs in the UK and Europe will be affected, but Amazon has not given details of how each country will be hit.

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Chief executive Andy Jassy said in a note to employees, which was made public: “These changes will help us pursue our long-term opportunities with a stronger cost structure.”

He blamed the move on an “uncertain economy”, adding “we’ve hired rapidly over the last several years”.

The group expects to tell staff directly impacted by the cuts from January 18 and said it is offering a separation payment, transitional health insurance benefits, and job placement support.

"Between the reductions we made in November and the ones we're sharing today, we plan to eliminate just over 18,000 roles," said Jassy. The company had announced 10,000 layoffs in November.

The announcement comes Amazon is set to endure a strike by workers in the UK for the first time.

Members of the GMB union at the US tech company's Coventry warehouse are due to walk out on 25 January as part of a fight for better pay.

"GMB urges Amazon UK bosses to give workers a proper pay rise and avoid industrial action altogether," the union's senior organiser Amanda Gearing said.

"They've shown they're willing to put themselves on the line to fighting for what's right.

"But people working for one of the most valuable companies in the world shouldn't have to threaten strike action just to win a wage they can live on."

Other big tech firms including Meta - which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp - and cloud-based business software firm Salesforce have also both recently announced big cuts.

Salesforce (CRM) said it was laying off about 8,000 employees, or 10% of its workforce.

Workers who lose their jobs at the firm would receive nearly five months of pay, health insurance, career resources and other benefits, according to the company.

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Meta (META) founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told workers the firm will cut its headcount by 13%, or 11,000 employees, amid falling revenue, grim global economic forecasts and increased competition.

“At the start of COVID, the world rapidly moved online and the surge of e-commerce led to outsized revenue growth,” said Zuckerberg.

“Many people predicted this would be a permanent acceleration that would continue even after the pandemic ended. I did too, so I made the decision to significantly increase our investments. Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected.”

Twitter has laid off thousands of employees under the management of new owner Elon Musk.

Musk laid off about half of Twitter’s workforce last shortly after his takeover, and later pushed out additional employees, including through an ultimatum requiring them to work “hardcore” or exit the company.

More than 100 former Twitter employees have filed demands for arbitration or are participating in proposed class action lawsuits related to the layoffs.

According to the website, which tracks job cuts in the tech industry, over 150,000 employees were laid off last year.

Watch: Amazon CEO says layoffs to exceed 18,000 roles