Kuehne + Nagel may have to reduce its 83,000-strong workforce by 20-25% as it looks to navigate its way through the economic crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The freight forwarder’s controlling shareholder Klaus-Michael Kuehne told German newspaper Die Welt that warehouse workers are the most likely staff to be affected.
Cuts are particularly likely in locations such as the US where, unlike in some European countries, there is no system of short-time working to fall back on to prevent widespread layoffs, he added.
Kuehne stated: “The group could have 20-25% fewer workers than before the crisis. We will emerge from the crisis smaller.
“The moments of truth come in the April-June period. Transport volumes have declined significantly. The decisive question is, will the world economy begin a gradual recovery in June?”
The company’s 2020 result will be worse than last year’s, he noted, pointing out that no one can predict how long the crisis will last.
He opined that economic production will be “lower for years to come” while globalisation is slowing, with a trend towards regionalisation.
Kuehne also criticised Chinese wet markets, thought to be the origin of the coronavirus, as well as American leadership, adding: “This crisis was started by carelessness within the Chinese food supply. For me it is unbelievable such primitive conditions still exist.
“And still, China — with its readiness to invest in projects like the new Silk Road — has an unbelievable strength. I wish we had a strong US as a counterweight, but it is poorly governed by Donald Trump. This could be an opportunity for a strong, courageous Europe.”