Major US tech companies are scrambling to cut jobs in Europe. Here’s why

In France, Alphabet is in talks to reduce headcount through voluntary departures. (representative)

After announcing the biggest rounds of layoffs in their history, major US tech companies are now learning how hard it is to cut jobs in Europe.

Companies in the US can announce widespread job cuts and let go of hundreds if not thousands of workers within months, and many have. Meanwhile, mass layoffs at tech companies in Europe have stalled because of labor protections, which make it virtually impossible in some countries to fire people without first consulting workers’ interest groups.

That has left thousands of tech workers in limbo, unsure whether they will be affected by negotiations that could drag on indefinitely.

In France, Google parent Alphabet Inc. is currently in talks to reduce the number of workers through voluntary departures, offering severance packages that it hopes will be generous enough to get workers to leave, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified because that information is not presented. not public. Amazon has tried to force some senior managers to resign, contingent on a year’s salary, and has given departing employees furloughs so their stock can be vested and paid out as bonuses, a person familiar with the situation said.

In both France and Germany, where labor laws are the strongest in the EU, Google is currently negotiating with works councils, special company groups whose elected employee representatives negotiate labor issues with management, according to a person familiar with the matter. By law, companies are required to bargain with these councils before making layoffs; a sometimes lengthy process involving information gathering, negotiation, and the opportunity to apply.

Because of these demands, the person said, Google’s branches in Germany and France will be some of the last places to be affected by the cuts, if at all.

When reached for comment, Google acknowledged the talks and added that it was not planning any layoffs in Romania, Greece or Austria.

“We have worked carefully and individually in each country where the cuts are taking place to fully comply with local legal requirements, which vary by location, are complex and take time,” a Google spokesperson said in response to Bloomberg. to the questions.

In Paris, where Google has about 1,600 employees, the works council is negotiating with the company how many employees and what types will be included in the voluntary collective departure plan. People familiar with the process say the resolution could still be weeks away, and until then it will be business as usual. According to the employee, who asked not to be named, management made it clear that no one would be kicked out.

By contrast, in the United Kingdom, where job protections are less stringent, about 500 of Google’s 8,000 workers are due to leave, according to Unite the Union’s Matthew Whaley; Negotiations with the works council will result in confidential severance packages, but the number of departures is not negotiable. “They’re trying to do the legal minimum,” Whaley said, referring to the ongoing bargaining process.

The same is true in Dublin, where unions say Google plans to cut 240 jobs, and in Zurich, where unions expect the number of layoffs to be around 200.

Employees recently created a Google job board for EU countries that includes the UK and Switzerland. It is expected to be operational in about six months and will be a powerful collective voice in future consultations. According to Whaley, this represents a “big change” because the company will have to notify employees sooner about reorganizations. The European Works Council will be made up of Google employees and serve a four-year term. The documents show that board members will liaise with Google management and will be headquartered in Dublin.

While the different treatment standards have not created controversy among Googlers spread across the world, “people have understood how things are happening in the U.S. versus France and Germany,” said Parul Cool, executive president of the Alphabet Workers Union. Software engineer at Google based in New York.

“It’s inspiring for people in the US to see that things are different in other places. it’s a plan for what people can fight for,” they added.

More than 170,000 full-time tech workers are employed on the continent and in the UK by Amazon, Alphabet and Meta, with software engineers often earning half the wages of their US counterparts.

At Amazon France, which has about 1,500 offices in Paris, some senior managers with 5 to 8 years of experience have been offered up to a year’s pay to leave, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person said the departing employees were allowed to remain on so-called “gardening leave” until May, when Amazon distributes stock and is paid as a bonus.

In previous years, workers were offered less than one month’s compensation in a year, one of the people said.

A person familiar with Amazon’s German branch said the company has begun laying off people who are still on probation and offering voluntary departures.

In Luxembourg, according to a person familiar with the matter, Amazon’s departing employees were offered one month’s salary for a year’s service, with a bonus determined by national law. The layoff offers began in the middle of last month, the person added, and people will leave on April 1 or June 1, depending on whether they chose a two-month window to look for work internally.

An Amazon representative declined to comment on specific cases. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said in January that the company would communicate with affected employees or, if necessary, employee representative bodies.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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