Google lays off hundreds of employees as it continues efforts to optimise costs

Layoffs in Alphabet-owned company's hardware and digital voice assistant units triggers speculation about another round of job cuts in the Silicon Valley

Google's decision to axe several hundred jobs was swiftly condemned by the Alphabet Workers Union. Reuters
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Google has fired hundreds of employees across its hardware, engineering and digital voice assistant units, triggering speculation about a wider round of job cuts for Silicon Valley technology companies.

The Alphabet-owned company's move – which was swiftly condemned by its workers union – comes as it continues to optimise its operational costs, it said on Thursday.

"We’re responsibly investing in our company's biggest priorities and the significant opportunities ahead," a Google spokesperson told The National.

"To best position us for these opportunities, throughout the second half of 2023, a number of our teams made changes to become more efficient and work better, and to align their resources to their biggest product priorities," the spokesperson said.

"Some teams are continuing to make these kinds of organisational changes, which include some role eliminations globally."

The Alphabet Workers Union reacted to the decision, arguing in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that "the company cannot continue to fire our co-workers while making billions every quarter".

The union accused Alphabet of "needless layoffs" and vowed that it "won't stop fighting until our jobs are safe", the post said.

Those who were fired, however, will be given the opportunity to apply for vacant positions within Google, according to the company.

"We’re continuing to support any impacted employees as they look for new roles at Google and beyond," the spokesperson said.

Employees in the world's biggest search engine company have been jolted since January last year, when its parent Alphabet announced plans to cut about 12,000 jobs, more than 6 per cent of its entire global workforce.

Google's firings follow a round of layoffs from Amazon, the world's biggest e-commerce company.

On Wednesday, the Seattle-based tech giant's live-streaming unit Twitch announced that it was laying off 500 staff – more than a third of its workforce – calling it a "difficult decision" intended to help the company "build a more sustainable business" and help it stay for the "long run".

That was the third round of firings at Twitch within the past year, the last of which was aimed at "rightsizing" the company, chief executive Dan Clancy said.

Also on Wednesday, Amazon said it was letting go of hundreds of employees in its Prime Video and MGM Studios divisions.

Mike Hopkins, who is in charge of the two units, said the decision was made to "prioritise our investments for the long-term success of our business".

"We've identified opportunities to reduce or discontinue investments in certain areas while increasing our investment and focus on content and product initiatives that deliver the most impact," he said in a memo to employees.

Amazon's latest layoffs are latest in the series of job cutting rounds over the past two years. The company has already fired about 27,000 employees since 2022.

Last year, tech companies including Meta, Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet axed staff after boosting hiring at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Spotify, Twitter, IBM, Lyft, Disney, PayPal, Dell and Yahoo are other major companies to have cut jobs last year.

Overall, companies in the US shed 363,824 jobs in 2022, 13 per cent more than 2021, the technology sector was the leading job-cutting industry in 2022, according to data from Chicago-based global employment company Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Updated: January 11, 2024, 10:14 AM