Dyson is to shed 900 jobs in a cost-cutting exercise that will weigh most heavily on UK employees of the engineering firm founded by Britain’s richest man.
Staff were told of the job losses during a live video conference with Dyson’s chief executive, Roland Krüger, who blamed the decision on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Krüger addressed UK staff from Singapore, after the company moved its headquarters there last year in a shift that attracted criticism, given founder Sir James Dyson’s prominent support for Britain’s economic prospects outside the European Union.
While the company is no longer run from the UK, staff were told that the cuts would be felt most keenly in Dyson’s British operations, which include its base at Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
About 600 of Dyson’s 4,000 staff in the UK – roughly 15% of the workforce – stand to lose their jobs.
But of the engineering firm’s 10,000 non-UK employees, only 3% will be affected by the cost-cutting exercise.
A source at the company told the Guardian that Dyson’s new-found status as Britain’s wealthiest man, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, has fuelled anger among staff who fear being affected by the job cuts.
“There’s a lot of resentment that we are owned by the richest man in the UK but a temporary blip in sales has resulted in 900 job losses worldwide,” they said.
The billionaire inventor – whose success was founded on the invention of a bagless vacuum cleaner – was yet to send a personal message to staff about the decision as of Thursday afternoon, the source added.
“His increase in wealth last year alone would be enough to make everyone in the UK affected a millionaire and he’d still have £3bn of it left over.”
Dyson’s net worth increased by £3.6bn to £16.2bn last year, despite the failure of a £500m electric car project, thanks to rising international sales.
A Dyson spokesperson said: “The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated changes in consumer behaviour and therefore requires changes in how we engage with our customers and how we sell our products.
“We are evolving our organisation and reflecting these changes to make us faster, more agile, and better able to grow sustainably.
“These proposals would regrettably result in around 600 redundancies in the UK and 300 in the rest of the world. We are fully supporting those who are impacted, finding alternative roles where possible.”
Sources close to the company pointed out that it had not taken advantage of the furlough scheme, nor accepted any public money to retain jobs anywhere in the world.
The company will aim to find alternative roles for affected staff, who will mainly be those in retail and customer service roles.
Dyson’s relationship with its UK workforce has been fractious at times since the onset of the pandemic.
In May, a mutiny among Dyson workers forced the company to abandon a plan to bring staff back to the office, in apparent contravention of government pandemic guidelines telling people to work from home.
But the company has won praise from the government for its involvement in the “ventilator challenge”, a push to build medical devices to help treat Covid-19 patients.
The company’s CoVent prototype was deemed suitable for treating sufferers of the disease but was not required after the UK stock of ventilators, boosted by supplies from specialist firms that arrived before Dyson’s device was ready, proved adequate.