The government has been urged to step in to stop Twitter from creating a “digital P&O,” as the company makes sweeping job cuts to save money.
The social media company began widespread job cuts around the world on Friday, with suggestions that up to half of its 7,500-plus employees could be eliminated in what the company called “an effort to put Twitter on a healthy path.”
New owner Elon Musk is thought to want to drastically reduce the company’s costs after completing the acquisition of the $ 44 billion (£ 39 billion) platform last week, as he tweeted “We have to pay the bills in some way”.
Prospect Union, which represents thousands of technology workers, including Twitter employees in the UK, said in a letter to Business Secretary Grant Shapps that the company had acted “in an unacceptable manner.”
He said, “From the communications to staff that our members have shared with us, it seems increasingly likely that the company will step on our existing work procedures and layoff protections.
“These, including the need to properly consult and select those affected fairly.
“It is totally unacceptable for anyone to be treated in this way. I hope you will agree with me that the government needs to make it clear to new Twitter owners that a digital P&O would not be acceptable and that no one is above the law in the UK, including the big tech barons.
“It is clear that Twitter treats its employees in an unacceptable way, blocking them off corporate platforms without warning and communicating only through impersonal emails.
“It seems very likely that Twitter should have notified your department of these planned layoffs.”
The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirmed that it has received the letter.
Simon Deakin, a law professor at Cambridge University, said that if 100 or more employees are fired within a 90-day period, the company secretary must be notified 45 days prior to the first firing.
Where there are more than 20 but less than 100 potential losses, the period is 30 days.
Professor Deakin said: “If no notice is given here, there could be a fine, so the employer or the director could be fined.
“And the fine currently has no limit and is a criminal offense.
“If they are firing 100 workers, there is a possibility of a crime being committed, we don’t know the full story, what the establishment is and maybe they gave notice.”
He continued: “If a crime has been committed, there would be a judicial proceeding organized by the bankruptcy service and this could lead to criminal liability for the company or, conceivably, for a manager or administrator.”
In his first tweet since the cuts began, Musk said: “Twitter has had a huge drop in revenue, due to activist groups lobbying advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we’ve done it all. everything possible to placate the activists.
“Extremely messed up! They are trying to destroy free speech in America ”.
He also responded to user posts and memes about advertising on Friday night.
Online security groups and activists have expressed concern over Musk’s plans to allow more freedom of speech on the site and overturn permanent bans given to controversial figures, including former US President Donald Trump.
There have been reports that some advertisers were concerned about the possibility of those figures coming back and appearing next to their ads on the site.
An internal email sent Friday to staff about job cuts said action to cut jobs was “sadly necessary to ensure the company’s success in the future.”
Staff have been told that everyone will receive an email by 9:00 PST (16:00 GMT) on Friday, with those affected by the cuts will receive the message on their personal email address rather than the associated one. to their work.
Staff have since turned to Twitter to confirm they will be leaving the company, with some revealing that they have been disconnected from their work laptops and internal messaging systems.
Twitter employee Simon Balmain told Sky News: “We started hearing strong rumors about layoffs a few days ago, which I’m sure everyone heard because it leaked pretty quickly to the press.
“Last night we all received an email saying there would be a large staff reduction and the email stated that if we were fired, it would go to our personal email and if not , to our work email.
“And it was about an hour later, in the early hours in the UK, like 2am, that I noticed that my work laptop had been remotely wiped and that my email access and Slack access had both been revoked.
“And then I got in touch with some colleagues and it seemed like a lot of people were seeing the same thing.”
A BEIS spokesperson said: “We are watching with interest what is happening on Twitter.
“While we cannot comment on individual cases, we expect companies to treat their employees fairly and our thoughts are on those who have lost their jobs.
“There are clear rules that companies must follow when making large numbers of redundancies, which include consulting with staff and notifying the redundancy service.”