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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Shutterstock/Sergei Elagin
VOICES
Twitter employee 'Our jobs are gone but we hope EU and UK law will protect us'
One former employee says staff are gutted – ‘after 14 interviews in 11 months, I had finally found my dream job’.

DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES HAVE different dream jobs. For a chef it might be a Michelin-starred restaurant, for a journalist a national paper, for others though this can be much less clear.

Twitter was my dream job. The first app I check in the morning, my source of truth in any breaking news story, or simply to follow the Late Late Toy Show reaction live.

It aligned with my values of openness and transparency and I felt it was, unlike other tech companies, on the right side of history (politically at least). And just like that, after 10 years working with Twitter data, and completing a mere 14 interviews over 11 months, I was in.

It did not disappoint. The people were passionate, hardworking and deeply caring, both about the work and each other. The hashtag #LoveWhereYouWork, has been featured heavily in posts from laid-off Tweeps (Twitter employees) and stems from the heartbreaking story of London-based employee Lucy Mosley.

I experienced this level of care and thoughtfulness first-hand after the sudden death of a friend. The platform is not perfect, nor is any organisation flawless, but for many of us, it was a very special place to work.

Turbulent times

While the past three weeks might appear turbulent, for staff the current unrest began back when co-founder and twice-former CEO Jack Dorsey unexpectedly resigned in November 2021.

Travel bans, hiring freezes, office space reductions, and a cancelled company-wide trip to Disneyland followed in the months after Dorsey’s resignation. These measures built a level of expectation amongst staff that more was to come, but the Musk acquisition bid in April initially seemed beyond what we ever could have imagined.

A car-crash call with staff in June 2022 where Musk arrived late, dismissed working from home, and went on to speculate about using Twitter to communicate with aliens sewed seeds of dread for many of us.

Sadly just six months after Musk’s attempt to call off the deal, Twitter’s lawsuit to ensure he didn’t, and many leaked texts, staff watched live along with the rest of the Twitter world as the cuckoo entered the nest, carrying that bizarre sink on Wednesday, 26 October. Watching this entrance in real-time from the New York office, made for very grim viewing.

Less than 24 hours after entering the building, Musk fired our CEO, CFO, General Counsel, and Head of Legal Policy. On Friday we waited for the promised company call with Musk. We waited for official confirmation of the deal. We waited for news of further firings, but nothing came. So we continued to wait.

The following Monday, department heads could only speculate in meetings as to who had been fired over the weekend. Some confirmations of departures came through live via personal texts during meetings. Tuesday was quiet. We kept watching Twitter for more departure announcements. Maybe, our jobs were going to be safe after all? Then came Wednesday, 2 November. Late that evening news broke (on Twitter, naturally) that 3,700 job cuts (approximately half of the company) were coming at the end of the week.

Thursday, 3 November, my team watched our boss break down in tears after confirming they had no idea what was in store for any of us over the next 24 hours. There were very few dry eyes left after the call as new levels of dread set in. A long night and long goodbyes followed. We knew it was the end, though we didn’t know exactly who or how many colleagues we were saying goodbye to.

Shock to the system

Around midnight GMT, the first email since the company’s sale landed, unsigned and confirming mass layoffs ahead.

I woke at 6am Friday morning, initially forgetting the previous night’s email, and tried unsuccessfully to log into Slack (the app we used for team communication), and then my work account to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. My email access was also gone. And that was it. My dream job was gone.

I understand fully that losing jobs is part of life. There’s nothing uniquely special about anyone in any role and jobs come and go. What is unusual here in this instance though is the speed and ferocity with which these global Twitter sackings happened. The rug has been pulled from underneath our feet and in the weeks since the news broke, speculation has given rise to confusion and fear.

There tends to be a process in times of job loss. The initial shock, worry about money and then if you’re lucky, some sort of remuneration or severance and at the very least, statutory redundancy.

However, everything in relation to our final pay and conditions at Twitter has only become less clear and more worrying. Recent news reports state that the entire payroll team is gone. Staff in Ireland and the UK are allegedly still employed, pending the completion of a redundancy process. After an initial burst of communication announcing the losses, the silence from Twitter has been deafening – our questions sent to, likely unsupervised, email addresses go unanswered.

Worries are many and in a lot of cases even bigger than wondering what sort of severance package will be agreed upon. Some Tweeps have significant expenses on company cards now past payment deadlines. Who is liable for the late fees? Who is liable for the debt? Will this affect our credit scores?

One friend and colleague is worried that her IVF process will not happen in time before benefits are cut off. Another had recently returned to work, after months battling a serious illness and has been left wondering if their health cover will be cut off, and if so, when? Those on visas are no clearer on when the formal notice period begins and their clocks start ticking on how long they have left in their countries. It’s 60 days for some on my former team – 90 for others. Many are also supporting their spouses’ visas as well as children. The various stresses build.

Then, the questions we ask ourselves – should I get a lawyer? Or join the union? Can I do both? As worries mount, Elon Musk continues to tweet merrily along.  The latest in the ongoing saga is that he has finished layoffs and is planning to hire staff elsewhere. While this happens, Musk may find that he has to contend with and comply with regulations in the EU and UK. We, as staff caught up in this, would like to think that the laws in this jurisdiction are robust enough to protect us. Time will tell. 

A learning experience

When I first joined Twitter, my friends took great joy in mocking my new title as a Tweep, and all the other bird puns that came with this new role. I took it on the chin (aided by the comforts of the free lunches, snacks and the bar at my disposal).

While I shied away from wearing the title as a badge of pride at the time, watching the grace, support and perseverance of former colleagues over the past few weeks, I don’t think I’ll ever be as proud of a title again.

The admiration I feel for those colleagues across all departments continues to grow watching them collating job opportunities in spreadsheets, organising introductions, scheduling calls with lawyers and unions and spreading legal costs. I have never felt more grateful to a team, just as the realisation sinks in that they actually are not technically my colleagues anymore.

One of the most surreal aspects of this experience is watching it all play out in real-time on Twitter. A new flock of Tweeps faced a new redundancy dilemma last week as Musk set an ultimatum for the remaining staff asking them to decide whether to leave the company or remain and work under his “extremely hardcore” new regime.

As thousands of us first-wave redundancies await severance clarity, Twitter remains not only the destination where we follow every development in this incredulous saga, but it’s still where all our thoughts, attention and connections live.

It may be where we take the next steps, find new homes, and hopefully process and make peace with being forced out of the nest.

The author wishes to remain anonymous.  

VOICES

Author
Twitter Employee (Anon)
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