Twitter UK staff told to choose representatives amid jobs 'purge'

Twitter UK staff told to choose representatives amid jobs 'purge'

November 5, 2022

Elon Musk gives Twitter workers in the UK who face the sack THREE DAYS to choose representatives after Tesla billionaire launched sweeping job cuts to ‘purge’ the social media giant

  • Elon Musk began global staff cuts on Friday as part of his £39billion takeover
  • Staff in the UK will choose a representative to hold discussions on their behalf
  • UK law requires companies to give 45 days notice if sacking more than 100 staff 
  • Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey on Saturday apologised for Musk’s decision 
  • Have you been impacted by Twitter job cuts in the UK? Email [email protected]

Twitter employees facing the sack in the UK have been given three days to nominate a representative who will hold formal discussions on their behalf about their jobs.  

New CEO Elon Musk began global staff cuts on Friday as part of his £39 billion takeover, with suggestions as many as 3,700 employees could be axed. 

While many staff appear to have already learned they no longer have a job when they woke up to find their computers had been wiped, workers received an email from Twitter’s HR department on Saturday which said they had until 9am on Tuesday to nominate any current employee.

They were told the company plans to inform and consult employee representatives ahead of potential redundancies, as required by employment law.

A maximum of 10 representatives can be nominated, with an election to be held if more than 10 nominations are received, according to the email.

Representatives will be required to attend consultation meetings and communicate between the firm and impacted employees. 

New CEO Elon Musk began global staff cuts on Friday as part of his £39 billion takeover, with suggestions as many as 3,700 staff could be axed

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, which represents thousands of technology workers including Twitter staff, described the process as ‘a complete sham’.

He said membership among Twitter workers has been ‘growing rather rapidly’ since new owner Elon Musk announced job cuts.

Mr Clancy described the situation as the ‘digital P&O’ – in reference to the shipping company, which was widely condemned after it sacked nearly 800 crew members without notice in March and replaced them with cheaper agency workers.

Musk is thought to want to drastically reduce costs at the company after completing his £39 billion takeover of the platform last week, tweeting ‘we need to pay the bills somehow’.

He said on Friday evening: ‘Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over 4M/day.

‘Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance.’

Twitter’s head of safety later said jobs cuts have affected about 15% of the trust and safety department, as opposed to approximately 50% of cuts company-wide.

While many staff appear to have already learned they no longer have a job when they woke up to find their computers had been wiped, workers received an email from Twitter’s HR department on Saturday which said they had until 9am on Tuesday to nominate any current employee. Pictured: Twitter’s London office

Prospect wrote to Business Secretary Grant Shapps urging him to intervene in a letter which read: ‘It is totally unacceptable that anyone should be treated in such a manner.

‘I hope that you will agree with me that the Government must make it clear to Twitter’s new owners a digital P&O would not be acceptable and that no-one is above the law in the UK, including big tech barons.’

Simon Deakin, a professor of Law at the University of Cambridge, said if 100 or more employees are sacked within a period of 90 days, the Business Secretary must be notified 45 days before the first dismissal.

Where there are more than 20 but fewer than 100 potential losses, the period is 30 days.

Staff were told everyone would receive an email by (4pm on Friday regarding their future employment.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey tweeted an apology for growing ‘the company size too quickly’ after Elon Musk gutted the company’s workforce

Emails would be sent to their personal inbox rather than the one associated with their work.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey made his first statement since the job cuts were announced to apologise to staff.

‘Folks at Twitter past and present are strong and resilient. They will always find a way no matter how difficult the moment,’ Dorsey wrote.

‘I realize many are angry with me. I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that.’ 

Dorsey has faced backlash for his decision to abandon Twitter to work on his payments company Block, formerly known as Square.

The co-founder rolled over his 18 million shares into the Elon Musk era of the company rather than taking a payout. His shares equal approximately a 2.4 percent stake in the company.

This means he will be one of Twitter’s biggest investors in the company, and contributed roughly $1 billion to Musk’s $44 billion purchase. 

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, which represents thousands of technology workers including Twitter staff, described the process as ‘a complete sham’

Some have since taken to Twitter to confirm they are leaving the company, with some revealing they have been logged out of their work laptops and internal messaging systems.

Twitter employee Simon Balmain told Sky News: ‘Late last night we all received an email saying there is going to be a large reduction in headcount and the email stated that if we would be laid off, it would go to our personal email and if not to our work email.

‘And it was about an hour after that, this is in the early hours of the morning UK, like 2am, that I noticed my work laptop was remotely wiped and my email access and Slack access were both revoked.

‘And then I got in touch with a few colleagues, and it seemed a lot of people were seeing the same thing.’

One staffer, Jaseem Abid, said he was on call when his laptop was remotely wiped.

He shared his experience on Twitter, revealing he woke up to ‘no slack/gmail/office access and laptop remotely wiped out’.

‘Got fired without even a confirmation email while sleeping? There is always a new low.’ 

Yash Agarwal, who worked in public policy at Twitter, was among staff who learned they’d been fired on Friday

Chris Younie, who works for Twitter in entertainment partnerships, tweeted: ‘Well this isn’t looking promising. Can’t log into emails. Mac won’t turn on. But so grateful this is happening at 3am. Really appreciate the thoughtfulness on the timing front guys… 

A BEIS spokesperson said: ‘We are watching what is happening at Twitter with interest.

‘While we cannot comment on the individual cases, we expect companies to treat their employees fairly and our thoughts are with those who have lost their jobs.

‘There are clear rules companies must follow when making large numbers of redundancies which includes consulting with staff and notifying the Redundancy Payments Service.’

The layoffs cap off a week of high-level purges by Musk, as he demanded deep cost cuts and imposed an aggressive new work ethic across the social media company.

He had already cleared out senior ranks, firing its chief executive and top finance and legal executives. 

The social media giant has offices in London (pictured) and Manchester, although its not clear how many employees it has here

Others, including those sitting atop the company’s advertising, marketing, and human resources divisions, departed throughout the past week.  

Prior to buying Twitter, Musk tweeted that the firm under his ownership ‘will be super focused on hardcore software engineering, design, infosec & server hardware’.

Last week he lamented that ‘there seem to be 10 people ‘managing’ for every one person coding’. 

Musk’s first week as Twitter’s owner has been marked by chaos and uncertainty. 

Two company-wide meetings were scheduled, only to be canceled mere hours later. 

Managers have been forbidden from calling team meetings or communicating directly with staff, one senior Twitter employee said, adding they were being monitored.

‘It feels like we’re working among the Gestapo,’ the person said.

Jaseem Abid revealed he was on call when his laptop was completely wiped, suggesting he had been fired

Another former employer, who gave his name as James and said he worked in curation partnerships, wrote: ‘I feel sorry for anyone that didn’t get fired tbh. Elon will run those left into the ground with his hair-brained ideas. Any kind of Twitter we knew before is dead’

Musk has also directed Twitter Inc’s teams to find up to $1billion (£896m) in annual infrastructure cost savings, according to two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message. 

Even as Musk cuts costs, he faces threats to Twitter’s revenue as a growing number of companies pause their advertising on the platform over concerns about whether it will remain ‘safe’ for brands. 

Twitter has stopped responding to all press inquiries, except for the few that Musk answers by tweet. 

He has changed his biography on the app to ‘Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator’, and on Friday appeared to place blame on ‘activist groups pressuring advertisers’.

Musk cited the ‘massive drop in revenue’ and argued ‘nothing has changed with content moderation’.

‘We did everything we could to appease the activists. Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.’ 

Everything you need to know about Elon Musk’s Twitter sackings: Why is the billionaire firing half of his workforce, what does he want to do with the social media platform – and what will happen to staff? 

How did Twitter get started?

The origins of Twitter date back to 2006, when its founder Jack Dorsey was working at Odeo, a podcasting company. 

After being asked to pitch ideas to his colleagues, Dorsey shared his concept for a new platform which allowed users to share short messages similar to texts. 

In the first ever tweet on March 21, 2006, Dorsey wrote: ‘Just setting up my twttr.’ Twitter made its public debut in July and quickly grew in popularity. 

Why was Musk critical of the platform? 

Musk has long been one of Twitter’s most prominent users, and has regularly tweeted criticism of the platform. 

He’s long claimed it is not sufficiently protective of free speech, focusing on examples such as the ‘incredibly inappropriate’ 2020 blocking of a New York Post article on Hunter Biden, which the company has since said was a mistake.

Musk has also criticised the number of bots on the platform and suggested it was a threat to democracy. 

How did he go about taking control of it? 

On January 31, the billionaire started buying shares of Twitter in near-daily installments, amassing a 5 per cent stake in the company by mid-March. 

In March, he said he was giving ‘serious thought’ to building an alternative to Twitter and began privately contacting Twitter board members, including Dorsey, a friend. 

The next month, Musk was offered a seat on Twitter’s board on the condition he amass no more than 14.9 per cent of the company’s stock, but CEO Parag Agrawal later announced he would not be joining the board after all.

Then, on April 14, Twitter revealed in a securities filing that Musk has offered to buy the company outright for about $44bn (£39bn). This kicked off several months of rollercoaster negotiations, which appeared to fizzle out on May 13 when Musk announced his planned purchase was ‘on hold’ due to a row over bots.  

Several flip-flops followed before he completed his $44bn (£38.1bn) takeover last week. ‘The  bird is freed,’ he tweeted afterwards. 

What changes has he been proposing?

Musk has claimed to be motivated to take over Twitter because it is ‘important for the future of humanity’. The changes he is planning include – 

BLUE TICK FOR $8 A MONTH – Musk wants to bring in a monthly charge for verified users from Monday. This has sparked a backlash, but the billionaire insists it is necessary if the platform is to balance it’s books. 

FREE SPEECH – Musk’s feistiest priority – but also the one with the vaguest roadmap – is to make Twitter a ‘politically neutral’ digital town square for the world’s discourse that allows as much free speech as each country’s laws allow. 

OPEN-SOURCED ALGORITHMS – Musk’s longstanding interest in AI is reflected in one of the most specific proposals he outlined in his merger announcement – the promise of ‘making the algorithms open source to increase trust.’ He’s talking about the systems that rank content to decide what shows up on users´ feeds.

‘DEFEATING THE SPAM BOTS’ – ‘Spam bots’ that mimic real people have been a personal nuisance to Musk, whose popularity on Twitter has inspired countless impersonator accounts that use his image and name – often to promote cryptocurrency scams that look as if they’re coming from the Tesla CEO.

AD-FREE TWITTER? Musk has floated the idea of an ad-free Twitter, though it wasn’t one of the priorities outlined in the official merger announcement. He has also spoken out to reassure advertisers Twitter remains a good place to grow their businesses. However, subscribers paying the $8 a month blue tick charge have been promised fewer ads. 

Will Donald Trump return? 

Musk is expected to soon start welcoming back users who were handed lifetime bans from the platform – including former US president. 

However, the billionaire suggested this would not happen until after the Midterm elections. ‘Twitter will not allow anyone who was de-platformed for violating Twitter rules back on platform until we have a clear process for doing so, which will take at least a few more weeks,’ he tweeted on Wednesday. 

He had previously vowed to set up a ‘content moderation council’ and said no major content decisions would be made until it was in place. 

Trump has welcomed Musk’s takeover, saying the platform was not ‘in sane hands’.  

What’s happened to Twitter staff?

As part of his plan to drive down costs since acquiring the social media company for $44bn (£39bn), the world’s richest man plans to cut around 3,700 jobs – about half of Twitter’s workforce.

But employees say the company is eliminating workers without enough notice in violation of federal and California law, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing a class-action lawsuit filed in a San Francisco federal court.

The company warned staff to brace for firing notices in a memo on Thursday night. It said all employees will receive an email alert by 9am Pacific time Friday letting them know whether they still have a job at the company.

Twitter had a global workforce of some 7,500 employees at the end of 2021. The company said its offices will be temporarily sealed and all staff badge access will be suspended in order ‘to help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data.’

Staff have now sued Musk in the US for not giving them enough notice.     

What could Musk’s approach to moderation look like?

Musk has been very vocal about easing content moderation policies, noting in April that if a tweet includes contents that are ‘a gray area’ it should stay.

But following concerns from advertisers, Musk released an open letter last week in which he reassured them Twitter would not be allowed to become a ‘free for all hellscape’. 

‘Fundamentally,’ he said, ‘Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise.’

Therefore, much about how Musk will seek to moderate abusive content or disinformation remains unclear. Some Twitter users sought to test his limits today by spreading a fake rumour about Donald Trump being dead. 

 

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