Accenture to cut 1,500 more jobs

Consulting firm Accenture Ltd. said it is laying off 1,500 workers, or two per cent of its global workforce, and extending its voluntary sabbatical program to Europe and Asia.

Accenture spokeswoman Roxanne Taylor said 1,000 consultant jobs and 500 support positions will be eliminated by the end of the month. The company has a global workforce of more than 75,000.

Accenture, like other IT consulting firms, is suffering from a slowdown in demand for its services. The company also said the layoffs were necessary because Accenture was suffering from the lowest attrition rate in years.

“With voluntary attrition rates in the low single digits in some parts of the world and temporary excess capacity due to a shift in our business mix from shorter-term consulting projects to a greater focus on longer-term business transformation outsourcing, we are taking these actions after our normal annual budget review and management plan to ensure that our staffing levels are better balanced with client demand,” said Joe W. Forehand, Accenture chairman and CEO, in a statement.

In June, the New York-based company cut 600 internal support jobs and offered sabbaticals to 1,000 consultants, primarily in the United States.

Taylor said the sabbatical program was so successful that the company is expanding it to workers in Europe and Asia. The sabbaticals will last from six to 12 months and are being offered to consulting workers who have been with Accenture for at least one year. Employees who take a sabbatical will continue to get 20 per cent of their salaries, plus all corporate benefits.

Accenture, which became a publicly traded company July 19, raised US$167 billion in its initial public offering. The company had revenue of $5.71 billion during the first half of its current fiscal year.

The company said it wouldn’t take a restructuring charge and is comfortable with analysts’ consensus estimates of earnings of 10 cents per share for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2001, ending Aug. 31, and 85 cents per share for fiscal 2002.

Accenture also said its board of directors has voted to authorize the repurchase of up to $150 million worth of shares of its common stock from time to time in the open market.