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Forget about Wipro chairman saying no one would lose their job due to COVID-19: UK staff told they're facing redundancy

Letter to Brit-based workers talks of 'new uncertainties for business' caused by pandemic

Wipro has warned UK staff that some of them may be laid off due to "uncertainties" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – even though the chairman claimed at an AGM that no jobs would be shed during the global crisis.

According to documents seen by The Register, the IT services provider, which has offices in London and Reading, last week kicked off a 30-day consultation process with staff, which indicates that between 20 and 99 people are at risk of redundancy.

"The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new uncertainties for business and necessitated and accelerated the need to draw upon efficiencies and focus on rationalisation of our resources," the internal memo stated.

Service providers and their legions of field engineers were squarely in the firing line after governments put millions in lockdown to curb the coronavirus: all but essential workers were forced to stay home, offices and facilities were mostly closed, and travel curtailed. Getting to customer sites became something of a no-no.

The short and medium-term project pipeline has therefore taken a bit of a tumble. "Unfortunately, this has made considering redundancies as an option unavoidable for the company," the letter sent to staff added.

Staff are expected to be told of their fate in early August, with those affected urged to look for other vacancies within the business in the meantime.

However, days after staff were warned of being 'at risk', at the start of this week, a triumphant Wipro chairman Rishad Premji was quoted by four Indian papers as saying at the 75th Annual General Meeting of shareholders that it will not chop any jobs as a result of any commercial pressure caused by the virus.

"We are trying to drive cost reduction through various other means through operationally and otherwise, but we have laid off no people and have no plans to lay off anybody at the moment," he said.

He added that 93 per cent of its staff – the consultancy giant employed a little more than 188,000 people in the most recent annual report [PDF] – were working remotely and "some of these changes will forever transform how we work in the future".

In a statement sent to The Register, a Wipro spokesperson said: "We continue to monitor and assess the situation closely including the risk of redundancy. However, our continued endeavour is and would be to protect jobs."

Wipro turned over [PDF] ₹610.2bn (£6.456bn/$8.1bn) in sales during the 12 months ended 31 March 2020, a rise of 4.2 per cent year-on-year. Net profit was ₹97.2bn (£1.028bn/$1.293bn). The company reported Q1 numbers for fiscal 2021 this week, as we covered here.

Starting out as a vegetable oil manufacturer in western India in 1945, Wipro entered the Indian IT industry in the early '80s by building and selling mini computers. In the '90s it started developing software. The non-IT components of Wipro were de-merged in 2013. The company is listed on the NSE, Bombay and New York Stock Exchange. ®

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