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Tech companies expanded ‘a little too quickly’, Varadkar says

Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar said his sympathies were with Stripe and Twitter employees who had lost their jobs.

LAST UPDATE | 4 Nov 2022

TECH COMPANIES MAY have expanded “a little bit too quickly”, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said after two tech giants announced significant layoffs.

It has emerged that Twitter is to let a significant number of staff go – reported to be as high as half its workforce – as part of tech billionaire Elon Musk’s dramatic takeover of the social media giant.

This announcement is just a day after the financial company Stripe, owned by Limerick brothers and co-founders Patrick and John Collison, announced that it would cut its global workforce by 14%.

“We over-hired for the world we’re in,” the brothers wrote to staff in an email on Thursday.

When asked today if he was concerned for the future of tech companies in Ireland, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:

“We are concerned and our concern is there for the employees of Twitter. It has changed ownership and globally, there seems to be fairly unprecedented approach being adopted here to a global workforce, and that’s manifesting itself in Ireland, what I would say is fundamentally that  no matter who you are, what IT sector you are in, one must always treat people with dignity and respect.”

He added that the world in general is facing economic challenges partly due to the war in Ukraine and that the tech sector in Ireland wasn’t suffering unique challenges.

“During my political life, we were fighting for the survival of Apple here. Now there are 6,000 people working for Apple in Ireland.”

Speaking from Singapore while on a trade mission,  Varadkar said his thoughts were with the employees at Stripe and Twitter who will lose their jobs.

“Tech companies expanded very quickly, probably expanded a little bit too quickly in the past year or two, and as a result they now have to lay off some staff,” the enterprise minister told CNBC.

“But the number of vacancies in the sector still outweighs the number of people who are looking for employment, so even a slowdown or a downturn in the tech sector I think still means that you’ll have some very successful companies making profits and a lot of people working in that sector.”

Varadkar also said that Ireland had been “careful” not to become over-reliant on any one sector.

“Tech is really big, but so is life sciences, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and indeed our food and drink industry, and that’s just the traded sector.

“So we’ve been careful to make sure that we don’t have all our eggs in one basket and that’s been part of our success story.”

Employees at Twitter received an email this morning advising them not to come into the office as their badge access was being suspended.

Staff have also been told that everyone will receive an email by 4pm this evening telling them if their job is safe or not.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it will be a “concerning time” for many workers in Twitter.

“We do have operations here in Ireland and I’d say it is a very concerning day. My understanding is that emails will be received this evening and certainly Twitter appear to have signaled a very significant reduction,” he said.

“We do have laws here in terms of making sure that there is redundancy payments and so forth,” he added.

When asked if he believed the job losses are part of a broader move in job reductions in the tech sector, Donnelly said he did not, stating that these job losses seem to be specific to the new purchase of Twitter.

Labour party spokesperson on workers’ rights, Marie Sherlock, said the way in which Twitter was informing people about whether their jobs were safe was “outrageous”.

“While political leaders were quick to be present for photocalls with Twitter, I hope they are just as quick to remind Twitter and all other companies of their legal responsibilities with regard to collective redundancies.

“Workers in a collective redundancy situation are entitled to a 30 days’ notice and consultation period, and the Minister must be notified of same. It is not yet clear whether Twitter are intending to abide by this.

“The treatment of workers by certain tech companies in recent days is cruel and appalling but it is not surprising,” she said, adding that collective redundancy legislation needed to be improved ahead of a difficult winter.

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