January 5, 2024
Last year Amazon made headlines for making 27,000 people redundant as part of a long-term cost-cutting exercise. One of the consequences was a fall in the firm’s share price. Now an employee has claimed in a blog post that the firm is handling its downsizing in more creative ways. Justin Garrison claims in the post that has been told he no longer has a role with Amazon Web Services, but that he will still be paid while he makes the finding of a new job his number one priority.
He describes the situation as a ‘silent sacking’ and claims that a growing number of companies are using the practice to lay people off without facing the consequences of announcing large scale redundancies. He also says the firm is unwilling to discuss the terms of his severance.
“They told us our number one priority was to find another job,” he wrote. “Every role we found had significant downsides. Lower pay, lower title, RTO, or various other things. It was clear they wanted us to take a different role we could quit later. My management wanted to retain the headcount, but couldn’t do lay-offs.”
“Every week for the next 2 1/2 months [after being told the role no longer existed], I asked for an update on my employment and severance package. I was either ghosted or given a variety of excuses. It’s now December 30th and I’m currently still employed by Amazon.”
“This has been happening in multiple areas as Amazon silently sacks people without being required to give them severance or announce layoffs. I’ve heard similar tactics being used at other companies–mostly large companies–and it’ll only continue in 2024 as they make decisions that drive short term profits over all else.
“The negative press associated with layoffs wasn’t good. But the most effective way to reduce operational expenses was to get rid of all the expensive people. How could they force people to leave without severance packages or en masse? Making them miserable and silently sacking them?”
Garrison also talks about wider problems with Amazon’s current business model, including its significant lack of investment in Ai which is leaving it way behind other tech based firms.
If you don’t like it, quit
Jim Moore, employee relations expert at HR consultants Hamilton Nash, believes this is not a good idea. “Creating intolerable conditions to reduce head count is not a common practice,” he says. “The biggest problem with such an approach would be that it’s indiscriminate – as you don’t know who will quit and who will stay.
“The employer risks losing the top talent who are more mobile because they’re more attractive to competitors, and get left with the less-mobile, more mediocre employees. The correct approach would be a genuine redundancy procedure, where a fair selection process can be used to identify the appropriate reductions.
“Leaders also need to remember that there’s the potential for a constructive unfair dismissal claim if an employee could show that an employer deliberately made conditions intolerable to force a resignation. While such a claim may not prevail at an employment tribunal, the costs of defending such claims could swiftly exceed the costs of a genuine redundancy exercise.
“Adopting a sweeping ‘If you don’t like it, quit’ approach is irresponsible business leadership.”