LONDON — Almost 2,500 jobs have been put at risk in Britain in the last 24-hours, with large corporations, most of them American, announcing big restructurings to drive efficiencies.
Since Wednesday morning, it has been announced:
- Ford plans to cut 1,100 workers at its Bridgend factory by 2021;
- Boots is closing 220 of its 320 in-store photo developing labs, putting 400 jobs at risk;
- Greggs is continuing its restructuring, putting 600 jobs on the line according to unions;
- Walkers Crisps is closing its factory in Peterlee, cutting 380 jobs in the process.
- Total: 2,480 jobs at risk.
Three out of the four companies behind the decisions — Ford, Boots owner Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Walkers owner PepsiCo — are American. But what is remarkable is how varied the job losses are in terms of sectors. It underlines the difficult task facing the government in navigating Brexit while at the same time boosting the British economy.
For Ford, job cuts are motivated by a contract coming up for expiry and concerns about efficiency at the Bridgend site. A spokesperson told the Financial Times that it is “nothing to do with Brexit.”
The wider British car industry is on edge, however, with Nissan warning this week that the government needs to invest at least £100 million to stimulate the auto part industry in the UK or risk an exodus.
For Boots, meanwhile, the logic is pretty obvious — people just are not developing films anymore. First the shift to digital cameras hit the business but now, with smartphones, people rarely bother getting things printed up. If they do, they can use one of Boots automated USB kiosks. People are no longer needed.
Greggs is in the midst of reforming its supply chain, consolidating the making of its pies and pasties into several big hubs that ship across the country, rather than lots of smaller bakeries.
And Walkers, similarly, is consolidating, moving the crisp production at Peterlee to other sites around the UK. PepsiCo says the move is necessary to find “crucial savings” to secure the business’ long-term future, according to the BBC.
The specific motivations of all parties can be summed up in one word — efficiency. With political uncertainty looming large, competition rife, and automation increasingly offering cheaper options, businesses are looking to cut the fat as much as possible to ensure they can weather any future climate.