Commission to meet Microsoft over mass redundancies

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said the mass redundancies were deeply regrettable. April 2012. [Eu/Flickr]

The European Commission has asked to meet Microsoft to discuss the layoff of thousands of EU workers, as the tech giant trims its newly-acquired Nokia subsidiary

The job losses should not damage confidence in the EU’s digital economy, Commissioner László Andor said Thursday (17 July).

“I have asked to meet with Microsoft representatives as soon as possible in order to get more information on the planned redundancies and the measures to alleviate the social consequences, as well as to explore how to mobilise EU funding in support of the workers concerned,” he said.

Microsoft announced today that it will cut 18,000 jobs worldwide this year, the deepest in its history. The Commission said redundancies will be made in several EU member states, particularly in Hungary and in Finland, where Nokia was founded.

Microsoft, which yesterday followed Google in implementing the  “right to be forgotten” [see below] on its search engine Bing, wants to turn itself into a cloud-computing and mobile-friendly software business.

About 12,500 of the layoffs will come from eliminating overlaps with the Nokia unit, which Microsoft bought in April for $7.2 billion (€5.3 billion). Microsoft did not say how many jobs would come from Nokia, but in April it said it would cut $600 million (€444 million) per year in costs within 18 months of closing the acquisition.

Andor was told about Microsoft’s plans during an informal joint meeting of EU Labour and Environment Ministers in Milan, discussing the transition towards a greener economy. The digital economy is seen by the Commission as part of the solution to Europe’s high unemployment and sluggish growth.

He said, “The fact that parts of one large software company are going to downsize should not be a reason to stop investing in digital skills and supporting digital job creation in Europe, quite the contrary.

“Digital skills are needed to support the transition towards new services, like cloud and data, as well as the transition towards a more resource and energy efficient economy.”

Andor said companies, governments and “social partners” had to increase people of all ages’ digital skills and get better at anticipating the market for them. Workers should be supported so they could retrain, he added. 

He deeply regretted the job losses, but said Microsoft had committed to working with governments and workers representatives, to find them work elsewhere, including in the company.

If conditions are fulfilled, national and regional authorities could get EU money for retraining from the European Social Fund or the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund provides support to people losing their jobs as a result of major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation

The European Social Fund, worth more than €80 billion for 2014-20, co-finances projects improving employment, social inclusion, education and the functioning of public administration.

Right to be forgotten

On Wednesday (16 July), Microsoft started taking requests from individuals in Europe who want to be removed from its Bing search engine results, following a court judgment in May guaranteeing the “right to be forgotten.”

Microsoft, whose Bing search engine has 2.5% of the European search market, follows market leader Google, which complied with the ruling in May, and started removing some search results last month.

The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union in May ordered Google to remove a link to a 15-year-old newspaper article about a Spanish man’s bankruptcy, effectively upholding people’s “right to be forgotten” on the Internet.

Microsoft bought Nokia, which was founded in Finland, in April for €5.3 billion. Microsoft announced today it will cut 18,000 jobs worldwide this year, the deepest in its history, with the majority coming from eliminating overlaps with Nokia.

European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said the cuts shouldn't damage confidence in the Eu's digital economy, seen by the executive as s part of the solution to Europe's high unemployment and sluggish growth. Read our special report below.


End of year: Completion of 18,000 worldwide job cuts at Microsoft.

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