Japanese electronics firm Fujitsu has told staff of plans to cut up to 1,800 jobs in the UK. The plan, which could see the first workers leaving in early 2017, is not linked to Brexit, the company said.

Fujitsu, which has 14,000 UK staff, said the job losses would be across its UK offices as it looks to compete better with foreign rivals that offer IT services more cheaply.

Trade unions called the cuts a “hammer blow” to Fujitsu’s UK workforce. The firm has a range of businesses in the UK, from software services to providing air conditioning units.

It has many offices across the country, including in Manchester, Belfast, Crewe, Bracknell, Solihull, Wakefield and Warrington, but has not decided yet where jobs will be cut.

Fujitsu said in a statement that it is planning a “transformation programme” which will enable it to “better support customers in the era of digital transformation”.

It added: “Fujitsu plans to streamline operations in order to remain competitive in the market. Proposed measures include changes which would result in a reduction of up to 1,800 jobs in the UK.”

The company will consult with staff in the coming months and job cuts will be staggered across 12 to 18 months, a spokesman said.

Ian Tonks, of the Unite trade union, said: “This is a hammer blow for these hardworking employees who have given their all to make the UK subsidiary highly profitable.

“It is not good news for the UK economy as the company says that it intends to offshore many of these jobs, with increased automation also responsible for job losses.”

Last week, Fujitsu’s shares jumped on reports it could sell its computer business to rival Lenovo.

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