As Amazon shrinks, some corporate workers' last day is just before Christmas

Seattle, Washington - Some employees in Amazon's human resources department will clock out for the last time on December 23, part of a broad push by the Seattle-based company to shrink its corporate workforce by 3% in coming months.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy speaks on stage at the 2022 New York Times DealBook on November 30, 2022 in New York City.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy speaks on stage at the 2022 New York Times DealBook on November 30, 2022 in New York City.  © THOS ROBINSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Amazon began cutting jobs this month, the first of a string of layoffs that is expected to reach about 10,000 workers. Human resources workers were offered voluntary buyouts the company put forward at the same time it began layoffs in other divisions.

Amazon, like many technology companies, is looking to cut costs as it faces economic uncertainty and comes off a years-long hiring spree. It's reviewing each division to make decisions "about what we believe we should change," chief executive Andy Jassy wrote to employees in November.

Jassy told employees the cuts would continue through 2023.

Amazon CEO says job cuts will roll into 2023
Amazon Amazon CEO says job cuts will roll into 2023

The company is trimming head count in several divisions, including devices, books, human resources, and stores. The devices group includes Amazon's voice assistant Alexa, its health device Halo, and its home robot Astro, as well as Kindle, smart home products, and the Echo speaker. Stores covers most of Amazon's consumer business, including online and physical stores, the marketplace for third-party sellers, and Prime.

The news comes as Amazon has been ordered by the National Labor Relations Board to cease and desist from firing workers at its warehouses who engage in pro-union activities.

Amazon has been quiet about layoffs

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos remains one of the world's richest men amid the firing spree at the company.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos remains one of the world's richest men amid the firing spree at the company.  © REUTERS

Amazon has been quiet about many details of the layoffs. It's still not clear how many people it will trim from each division, or how the layoffs will affect its Puget Sound headquarters.

In the devices division, some employees lost access to Amazon buildings, laptops, and some messaging channels on November 23, the day before Thanksgiving. In its human resources division, some employees will mark their last day on December 23.

"Coming out of the pandemic, there are several macroeconomic pressures happening in the world, and we are faced with some very hard decisions as we plan for 2023," the company wrote in an email offering its voluntary resignation package viewed by The Seattle Times.

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Amazon Amazon sued by parents of teens who bought and used "suicide kits"

Within People, Experience and Technology, Amazon's name for its human resources division, "the slowdown in hiring and the unusual environment" have affected some departments and "we need to take steps to more closely align with our business needs," the email read.

A spokesperson for Amazon declined to answer questions about the voluntary resignation package.

Amazon employee speaks out about firing spree

Members and supporters of the Amazon Labor Union protest outside of the New York Times DealBook Summit as Amazon CEO Andy Jassy appears to speak November 30, 2022.
Members and supporters of the Amazon Labor Union protest outside of the New York Times DealBook Summit as Amazon CEO Andy Jassy appears to speak November 30, 2022.  © SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The company offered the package to some employees in the US and India through an email on November 15, the same day it began layoffs in its devices division. The package is available to workers at different experience levels, from entry level to manager. The package is available to workers at different experience levels, from entry level to manager, or L1 to L7 as Amazon internally describes its workforce.

Employees could apply for the package until Tuesday. They now have until Monday to change their minds and withdraw their applications.

By December 8, Amazon will confirm or deny the applications. Some employees may be told they cannot take the buyout.

For those who are accepted, their last day is December 23, unless a later date is "necessary for business purposes," according to a document detailing the package.

"I appreciate that everyone has different circumstances," Amazon's email to employees read. "The decision to opt into this program is entirely up to you."

In some parts of the human resources department, the push to trim the workforce comes during a time of year where workers are already stretched thin, according to one employee in Amazon's corporate human resources office in Nashville.

That employee, who requested anonymity to protect a career at Amazon, said the team is already operating on mandatory overtime, adding roughly 10.5 hours each week.

"This is our peak," that employee said. "Right now it's causing a lot of issues with morale. People are like, 'Why should I push harder if I have to leave?'"

"I feel Amazon, who preached really looking at what's best for our customer over profit and thinking for the long-term, is not thinking in the long-term," they said.

Amazon's layoffs reportedly came as a surprise

Amazon boxes are ready to be delivered during Cyber Monday at the fulfillment center in Robbinsville Township, New Jersey.
Amazon boxes are ready to be delivered during Cyber Monday at the fulfillment center in Robbinsville Township, New Jersey.  © REUTERS

The news that Amazon was looking to cut from the department came as a surprise, the employee said, as it did for many workers in the company's corporate ranks. Many employees found out about the layoffs from the media, rather than the company.

During a departmental meeting to discuss the resignation package the day after it was offered, leaders were "visibly shaking," that employee said.

The employee said they immediately began looking for jobs at Amazon and elsewhere. In the two weeks since sending out applications, they have not heard back about any openings at Amazon.

The voluntary resignation package includes severance pay, additional funds for health insurance, and the forgiveness of any outstanding obligations, like a requirement to repay a moving bonus if an employee quits.

The lump sum severance equals three months of an employee's base salary as well as one week base salary for every six months at the company. Employees can receive a maximum of 20 additional weeks in paid severance.

The package also includes at least $297 per week for 12 weeks to cover health care premiums. Employees who take the resignation package will remain insured through the end of the year.

Cover photo: Collage: THOS ROBINSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP & SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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