Business

Twitter employees brace for layoff notices today

Twitter Inc temporarily closed its offices and cut workers access to internal systems on Friday after telling employees they would be informed by email later in the day about whether they were being laid off.

Social media company has temporarily closed its offices and suspended employee access badges

Twitter is warning employees they will hear about layoffs by email Friday morning. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

Twitter temporarily closed its offices and cut workers' access to internal systems on Friday after telling employees they would be informed by email later in the day about whether they were being laid off.

The move follows a week of uncertainty about the company's future under new owner Elon Musk.

The social media company said in an email to staff it would tell them by 12 p.m. ET on Friday about staff cuts.

"In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday," said the email sent on Thursday, seen by Reuters.

Shortly after the email landed in employee inboxes, hundreds of people flooded the company's Slack channels to say goodbye, two employees told Reuters. Someone invited Musk to join the channel, the sources said.

Elon Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion US last week, had previously said that he planned to fire up to 75 per cent of the social media company's current employees. (Joe Skipper/Reuters)

Musk, the world's richest person, is looking to cut around 3,700 Twitter staff, or about half the workforce, as he seeks to slash costs and impose a demanding new work ethic, according to internal plans reviewed by Reuters this week.

Twitter employees have vented their frustrations about the layoffs on the social network, using the hashtag #OneTeam.

User rachel bonn tweeted: "Last Thursday in the SF [San Francisco] office, really the last day Twitter was Twitter. 8 months pregnant and have a 9 month old. Just got cut off from laptop access."

Responding to the #OneTeam thread, Twitter's Head of Safety & Integrity Yoel Roth said: "Tweeps: My DMs (direct message routes) are always open to you. Tell me how I can help. "

Roth was the most senior executive to message publicly with a tweet of support for staff who are losing their jobs. He also appeared to still have his job. Last week, Musk endorsed Roth, citing his "high integrity" after he was called out over tweets critical of former U.S. president Donald Trump years earlier.

Twitter said in the email that its offices would be temporarily closed and all badge access suspended in order "to help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data."

Musk has promised to restore free speech while preventing Twitter from descending into a "hellscape." However, his reassurances have failed to prevent major advertisers from threatening to withdraw from the platform.

Volkswagen has recommended its brands pause paid advertising on Twitter until further notice in the wake of Musk's takeover, it said on Friday. Its comments echoed remarks from other firms, including General Motors and General Mills, as well as some media-buying shops that place ads for clients.

Impact on international operations unclear

The company's office in Piccadilly Circus, London, appeared deserted on Friday, with no employees in sight.

A member of security staff at Twitter's office in Dublin told reporters that nobody was coming in on Friday and employees had been told to stay home. Another member of the security staff locked the revolving doors at the front of the building where around 500 members of staff worked before the layoffs began.

The impact of the overall Twitter changes on the company's Toronto office, which opened in 2013 and announced a new engineering hub last year, is not yet clear. The company also has offices in Australia, Brazil, France, India, Japan and Singapore.

Inside, any evidence the social media giant had once occupied the building had been erased. Security staff said there were ongoing refurbishments, refusing to comment further.

The company said employees who were not affected by the layoffs would be notified via their work email addresses. Staff who had been laid off would be notified with next steps to their personal email addresses, the memo said.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has only been “Chief Twit” of Twitter since Thursday night, but he’s already fired four top executives and dissolved the company’s board. Musk had repeatedly tried to pull out of his $44-billion US deal to acquire Twitter since April, leading to legal action from the company. Now, as Musk and his investors take private ownership of the company, his messages about free speech and lighter moderation have been joined by an assurance to advertisers that Twitter won’t become a “free-for-all hellscape.” Today on Front Burner, Washington Post tech analysis writer Will Oremus details the chaos unfolding inside Twitter as Musk begins his reign, and discusses what the ownership of social media by billionaires such as Musk could mean for our online future.

Some employees tweeted their access to the company's IT system had been blocked and feared whether that suggested they had been laid off.

A class-action lawsuit was filed on Thursday against Twitter by its employees, who argued the company was conducting mass layoffs without providing the required 60-day advance notice, in violation of federal and California law.

Musk has directed Twitter's teams to find up to $1 billion US in annual infrastructure cost savings, according to two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message reviewed by Reuters.

He has already cleared out the company's senior ranks, firing its chief executive and top finance and legal executives. Others, including those sitting atop the company's advertising, marketing and human resources divisions, have departed throughout the past week.

Other tech layoffs announced this week

Musk's first week as Twitter's owner has been marked by chaos and uncertainty. Two company-wide meetings were scheduled, only to be cancelled hours later. Employees told Reuters they were left to piece together information through media reports, private messaging groups and anonymous forums.

The expected layoffs come with a U.S. jobs report for October to be released Friday and closely watched for signs that employers are slowing their hiring.

Many technology companies are experiencing slowdowns in their businesses. Ride-hailing provider Lyft and fintech firm Stripe have said this week they are cutting jobs. Amazon on Thursday said it would pause hiring in its corporate offices, while Microsoft late last month announced plans for layoffs.

Layoffs are also being mooted by companies in other industries, including at media companies Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery/CNN, as well as Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley in the finance industry.

With files from CBC News, the Associated Press

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