Amazon.com Inc. CEO Andy Jassy said he has no regrets about the company’s hiring spree in recent years, despite the tech giant carrying out one of the biggest corporate layoffs in its history.
“This year, we’ve had the lens of a very uncertain economic environment, as well as aggressive hiring over the last few years,” Mr. Jassy said Wednesday at the New York Times’ Dealbook Summit in New York. The chief executive said the company’s aim was to transition its businesses “thoughtfully but comprehensively” and not compromise on “key long-term” bets.
Mr Jassy defended Amazon’s heavy hiring during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the company’s retail business grew at an “unprecedented” rate in 2020. “It forced us to spend more money and go further. faster than we imagined in building the infrastructure,” he said.
The company is now cutting jobs across its corporate ranks, which could affect about 10,000 workers, or 3% of its corporate workforce.
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A large portion of those cuts are aimed at Amazon’s appliances division, long led by the Alexa brand. The division has grown to more than 10,000 employees, but has suffered annual losses of more than $5 billion in recent years, The Wall Street Journal recently reported.
Mr. Jassy also reiterated the company’s rationale for opposing unionization among workers, saying it could slow down product or business development, adding that Amazon pays workers well. Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted to unionize earlier this year, even as workers at other facilities decided against unionizing.
Separately, Mr. Jassy addressed Amazon’s handling of controversial content on its e-commerce and video platforms. “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” an Amazon Prime video featuring false conspiracies about Jews, gained national attention after basketball star Kyrie Irving promoted it to his millions of Twitter followers.
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“Within the company, we will not tolerate discrimination or harassment,” Mr. Jassy said, but he added that Amazon must recognize that it has hundreds of millions of customers with different viewpoints. “We have to be willing to give access to those ideas, even if they are objectionable,” he said.
Mr. Jassy pointed out that Amazon has employees dedicated to reviewing and flagging content violations, though he said “we don’t want a store with a disclaimer on every page.” He added that the company’s “customers do a pretty good job of notifying people when there is objectionable content.”
Mr. Jassy, who took over as Amazon’s CEO in July 2021, has conducted a major review of the company’s spending and focused on unprofitable businesses. While Amazon has said it is investing in Alexa’s future, executives have weighed in on whether the company should try to add features to the program that require more investment, the Journal reported.
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Mr Jassy first acknowledged the cuts two weeks ago after many workers expressed confusion about which businesses would face layoffs and how far they would go. At the time, Mr. Jassy said Amazon’s layoffs would extend into next year and that the layoffs were “the most difficult decision we’ve made” during his tenure.
Technology companies have recorded exceptional growth in revenue and headcount through much of the Covid-19 pandemic. But now they are cutting thousands of jobs.
Mr Jassy said Amazon would continue to review workforce levels and investments. With the start of the holiday season, Amazon is experiencing its most important sales period of the year.
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In October, the company warned of a difficult fourth quarter with economic pressures weighing on sales. Some indicators, however, pointed to a strong start to holiday shopping. According to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent a total of $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, or 5.8% more than a year ago.
Amazon also sounded more optimistic. The company said Wednesday that the Thanksgiving weekend was its “biggest ever,” though it provided few details. Amazon said customers bought hundreds of millions of items between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, generating more than $1 billion in sales for U.S. small businesses.
Sebastian Herrera contributed to this article.