Amazon handing out pink slips as next round of layoffs begins

Amazon made deeper cuts to its human resources and stores division Wednesday, the next round of layoffs in the company’s efforts to slim down and trim costs.

Amazon’s Worldwide Stores business, led by Doug Herrington, is the retail arm of the tech and e-commerce giant. It includes Amazon’s online and physical stores, marketplace for third-party sellers and Amazon’s Prime subscription.

All employees in the US and Canada impacted by this most recent wave of job cuts will likely be notified Wednesday, according to messages shared with The Seattle Times by Amazon. A spokesperson for the company declined to disclose how many workers were laid off, or how the job cuts impacted Amazon’s Puget Sound headquarters.

After weeks of hinting at a slow-down — including a corporate hiring freeze and kicking off an annual cost-cutting review — Amazon began layoffs in November. The first wave largely impacted employees in the company’s Devices organization, which includes Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, as well as Kindle, smart home products, Echo speakers, its health device Halo and its home robot Astro.

Amazon also offered resignation packages to some workers in its human resources department. The company internally calls that team People Experience and Technology, or PXT.

After telling employees in November the job cuts would continue into the new year, CEO Andy Jassy said earlier this month the layoffs would likely total 18,000. That came as a shock to some: When news of the layoffs first broke, it was expected that the job cuts would affect about 10,000 people.

On Wednesday, the heads of Amazon’s HR and stores division confirmed the cuts had come.

“While it is painful to say goodbye to many of our talented colleagues, it is an important part of a wider effort to lower our cost to serve so we can continue investing in the wide selection, low prices and fast shipping that our customers love, ” said Herrington, who was named CEO of Worldwide Amazon Stores business in June.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Herrington continued, Amazon’s first priority was scaling up, to meet the needs of customers spending more time at home. “The exit out of COVID” over the past year has been challenging for Amazon, with labor shortages, supply chain difficulties, inflation and “productivity overhang” after the company expanded rapidly, he said.

The layoffs are one of several steps Amazon has planned to reduce its costs, Herrington said. It now plans to increase local stock of some of its most popular items and increase the ways customers can buy everyday essentials.

“Every team has a role to play in finding ways to reduce costs while improving selection, pricing and delivery speeds,” Herrington wrote. “I am confident that Amazonians will bring their ownership, innovation and bias for action to this challenge, unlocking even more value for customers.”

Beth Galetti, head of Amazon’s HR department PXT, told employees that after initial steps, like freezing hiring and offering voluntary release programs to some workers, “further action” was needed.

“The nature of our work in PXT is such that we often need to support employees and customers while being affected by the very same issues affecting those who need our support,” Galetti wrote. “It is part of what makes our work meaningful, but there are moments when it is also personally challenging.”

Amazon said it would offer affected workers a 60-day transitional period where employees would continue to be paid but would not be expected to work. Laid-off workers would also receive severance, a separation payment, transitional benefits and external job placement support, the company said.

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