Just a week after billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter, he is now set to sack half its staff with employees raging at the cold method it’s being done.
New Twitter owner Elon Musk has wasted no time restructuring the social media platform.
With his US$44bn (A$68bn) purchase barely a week old, the company is set to sack as many as 4000 people on Friday morning, US time.
Australian staff are affected as well as those at the San Francisco headquarters and other offices globally.
But the method in which those sackings will take place – via email with staff locked out of offices and computers – has seen Musk’s actions characterised as “abuse”.
There are also questions about whether mass sackings in such as short period of time violate US labour laws.
One UK employee, who hadn’t been told if he was on the sacked list, said his work computer was wiped right in front of him when he was at home. He said the screen flashed grey which was a sign its data was being remotely erased.
“You don’t wipe a laptop if you’re planning to keep somebody on”, he told the BBC.
Musk bought out Twitter late last week, firing top executives in the process and kicking out the board.
Now he’s getting to work on the firm’s 8000 other employees.
A company-wide email seen by AFP says Twitter employees will receive word via email at the start of the business day on Friday, California time, as to what their fate is.
There are reports that about half of Twitter’s employees will be let go.
“In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global work force,” the email said.
“We recognise that this will impact a number of individuals who have made valuable contributions to Twitter, but this action is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward.”
The company then sought to justify why it wasn’t telling people in person of their fate.
“Given the nature of our distributed workforce and our desire to inform impacted individuals as quickly as possible, communications for this process will take place via email.”
It said everyone would receive an email at 9am, Friday, California time (3am, Saturday AEST) with the subject line: ‘Your Role at Twitter’.
Twitter then stated all its staff would be locked out of its offices “to help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data”.
“If you are in an office or on your way to an office, please return home.”
The company then warned employees not to “discuss confidential company information on social media, with the press or elsewhere”.
That hasn’t stopped some staff from being scathing in their criticism of the process.
“The current lay-off process is a farce and a disgrace. Tesla’s henchmen are making decisions about people they know nothing about except the number of lines of code produced. This is completely absurd,” Taylor Leese, the manager of an engineering team who said he was fired, tweeted on Sunday.
Several staff have said they have been locked out of company email and Slack messaging accounts.
“Honestly happy to be laid off, but the veil of Elon Musk is pierced,” Kushal Dave said on Twitter.
“As messy as Twitter was pre-Elon, it is a veritable clown town of politics and toadyism and psychological abuse now.
“Just bad decision making as a business owner”.
Honestly happy to be laid off but the veil of @elonmusk is pierced. As messy as Twitter was pre-elon, it is a veritable clowntown of politics and toadyism and psychological abuse now. Afraid to get in my Tesla with what I learned this week.
A workplace and employee review and other projects ordered by Musk were reportedly so exhaustive and gruelling that some engineers slept at Twitter headquarters over the weekend.
Many engineers had to print the last lines of code they had produced, according to an employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Lists comparing computer scientists with each other, mainly on the basis of production volume, were also drawn up, according to another employee.
Late on Thursday, a group of five Twitter employees who had already been fired filed a class action complaint against the company on the grounds that they had not been given the required 60-day notice period as required under US federal and California state law, according to the text of the complaint.
Musk’s huge Twitter debt
Saddled with the purchase of Twitter, for which Musk has said he overpaid, the tycoon is looking for ways for Twitter to make money — and fast.
His most recent idea was to charge $8 a month to anyone on Twitter who would receive a blue “verified” badge assuring the public that the account is authentic.
A news report this week said Musk wanted to charge $20 a month but faced a backlash, including from best-selling novelist Stephen King, who tweeted: “$20 a month to keep my blue check?”
It was followed by an expletive.
Musk responded on Twitter, seemingly bargaining with King: “we need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?” Musk has said he wants to increase Twitter’s revenue from $5 billion last year to more than $26 billion in 2028.
Top global companies, including General Mills and Volkswagen, suspended their advertising on Twitter on Thursday as pressure builds on Musk to turn his platform into a successful business.
Officials and civil rights groups have expressed worry that Musk will open the site to uncontrolled hate speech and misinformation as well as reinstate banned accounts, including that of former US president Donald Trump.
Advertisers are Twitter’s main source of revenue and Musk has tried to calm the nerves by reassuring that the site would not become a “free-for-all hellscape”.