Singapore not spared as Amazon retrenches 9,000 workers; employees 'abruptly cut off from work terminals'

The lay-offs in Singapore are part of a retrenchment exercise announced in March that is expected to affect 9,000 employees. - The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE, April 30 (The Straits Times/ANN): Amazon started laying off employees in its cloud services division since Wednesday as part of a retrenchment exercise that is expected to affect 9,000 employees, and those from the Singapore office were not spared.

The exercise, which was announced in March, comes on the heels of layoffs that cut 18,000 jobs between November 2022 and January – the largest round of retrenchments in the history of the retail giant.

Amazon chief executive Andy Jassy, in a March 20 post on the firm’s blog, said the new round of cuts will take place in the next few weeks and mostly involve those in its cloud computing division – Amazon Web Services (AWS) – as well as in human resources, advertising and gaming divisions.

It is unclear how many Singapore employees have been laid off so far. As at October 2021, Amazon had about 2,000 full-time and part-time employees in Singapore.

In an internal note addressed to employees and seen by The Straits Times, AWS chief executive Adam Selipsky said the division began notifying those who have been laid off on Wednesday.

He said: “Notification messages were sent to all impacted employees in the United States, Canada and Costa Rica. In other regions, we are following local processes, which may include time for consultation with employee representative bodies.

“We are working hard to treat everyone impacted with respect and to provide a number of resources and touchpoints to aid in the transition. This includes a separation payment, transitional health insurance benefits and external job placement support.”

AWS is the firm’s most profitable division but is experiencing slowing growth as corporate customers reel in spending. Like much of Amazon, the unit expanded its headcount rapidly during the pandemic due to high demand for digital services at the time.

Bloomberg reported in early April that Amazon’s live streaming platform Twitch cut 400 jobs and its other gaming divisions, like Prime Gaming and Game Growth, laid off about 100 employees.

Mr Selipsky said that in the current macroeconomic climate, it is critical to focus on putting resources behind things that matter most to customers, and that will move the needle for the business.

“In many cases, this means team members are shifting the projects, initiatives or teams on which they work; however, in other cases it has resulted in these role eliminations,” he said.

A Singapore employee who was laid off said the mood in the office has been sombre, with people crying at their desks.

The employee, who declined to be named, said: “We’re all shocked by the news as we had expected (the retrenchment exercise) to be over by now, given that it has been five weeks since the CEO’s announcement. We also didn’t expect AWS to be affected as it is Amazon’s moneymaker.”

The employee got an e-mail from human resources on Tuesday afternoon to schedule a meeting with a senior leader and was unable to access certain digital functions shortly after.

The employee said: “I would have appreciated getting a heads-up from my manager rather than be abruptly cut off from important work terminals on what seemed to be a normal day at work.”

The employee was disappointed and upset because it was the employee’s dream to work in the tech sector, but added that the severance package is reasonably generous by local market standards.

“I still hope to continue working in tech as that is where my interests lie, but it’s not going to be easy in the current gloomy climate,” the employee added.

Other tech giants have also cut their headcount. In November 2022, Facebook owner Meta Platforms shed 11,000 jobs, or about 13 per cent of its staff, to cut costs, while Twitter slashed 3,700 jobs – half the company’s workforce – in late October. - The Straits Times/ANN

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