Mobile device maker BlackBerry (BBRY), still reeling from an $84 million loss last quarter with more losses expected this quarter—and one year removed from cutting 5,000 jobs—has lopped another 250 workers from its employee rolls in its core R&D and manufacturing, specifically tied to its new product testing facility.
BlackBerry confirmed the job cuts in a report to CTV News in Canada and to TechCrunch. In addition, the company acknowledged that David Smith, its Enterprise Mobile Computing executive vice president, resigned for personal reasons.
In an email to TechCrunch, a BlackBerry spokesperson wrote:
“I can confirm on the record, that BlackBerry on Tuesday informed 250 employees of their termination in Waterloo. These employees were part of the New Product Testing Facility, a department that supports BlackBerry’s manufacturing and R&D efforts. This is part of the next stage of our turnaround plan to increase efficiencies and scale our company correctly for new opportunities in mobile computing. We will be as transparent as possible as those plans evolve.”
Of course, this layoff, at 5 percent of last year’s purge, could pass for workforce balancing. BlackBerry chief Thorsten Heins, speaking to investors at a shareholder meeting two weeks ago, said he was more interested in “really trimming and slimming” BlackBerry than in cutting jobs. The 250 newly furloughed workers appear to have fallen victim to a new internal cost-cutting program called Polaris, which aims to streamline the company’s operations. However, that the layoffs come from R&D, which BlackBerry repeatedly has pointed to as central to its turnaround, runs counter to the company’s claim that the cuts are tied to workforce efficiency and balancing.
BlackBerry confirmed that last month it fired its U.S. sales organization chief Richard Piasentin, ostensibly for the tepid response to the Z10, with sales particularly sluggish in the United States. So far no new sales head has been named to replace Piasentin.
Heins reportedly asked investors for patience at the shareholder meeting, contending the company’s BlackBerry 10 platform products have only been on the market since February—not much time to measure the company’s prospects for success based on its current strategy.