Why Google, Amazon are finding it tough to layoff employees in Europe


Having announced the biggest layoffs in their history, US big tech companies now realise the challenges of downsizing their workforce in Europe. In the US, companies can quickly lay off hundreds or thousands of workers, while labour protections in Europe make it difficult to lay off people without consulting employee interest groups. As a result, tech layoffs in Europe have stalled, leaving many workers uncertain about their fate during prolonged negotiations.
Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, is engaged in talks to decrease headcount through voluntary departures in France. To encourage employees to leave, the company is reportedly offering severance packages that it hopes will be sufficiently attractive. Similarly, Amazon has attempted to entice senior managers in France to resign by offering up to one year’s pay and granting leave to departing employees to allow their shares to vest and be paid out as bonuses.
In France and Germany, where labour laws are among the strictest in the EU, Google is reportedly in talks with works councils – groups of elected employee representatives who negotiate with management about workforce matters.
According to an anonymous source, companies are legally required to consult with these councils before executing layoffs, which involves a potentially time-consuming process of data collection, discussions, and the option of appealing.
In France and Germany, Google is negotiating with works councils – company-specific groups of elected employee representatives who negotiate with management about workforce issues – due to strict labour laws. The councils must be consulted by law before layoffs can be implemented, leading to a potentially lengthy process of information gathering, negotiations, and possible appeal. So, according to an anonymous source familiar with the matter, Google’s units in these countries are likely to be among the least impacted by the cuts.
“We have been working carefully and individually through each country where reductions are taking place to fully adhere to local legal requirements, which vary per location, are complex, and take time,” a Google spokesperson told Bloomberg.
Google is negotiating with works councils in Paris to determine the number and types of employees that will be included in a voluntary collective departure plan. In the UK, 500 out of 8,000 employees will have to leave, with talks resulting in confidential severance packages, but the number of departures is non-negotiable. Unions claim layoffs will also affect over 200 people in Dublin and Zurich.
Amazon is offering generous severance packages to some of its employees in France and Germany. In France, senior managers with 5-8 years of experience were offered up to a year’s pay to leave, while in Germany, the company is laying off people in their probationary periods and offering voluntary departures. In Luxembourg, exiting employees have been offered a month’s salary per year of service, with extra pay based on national laws. Moreover, employees are given the option to choose a two-month window to search for a job internally.


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