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Tech worker union demands talks with Twitter over treatment of UK staff

A trade union representing Twitter workers in the UK has written to the social media giant expressing its concerns over Elon Musk’s restructuring of the company.

The billionaire Tesla owner sacked half of Twitter’s 7,500 global workforce a week after taking over the company, ended remote working and set an ultimatum for remaining staff to agree to longer, more intense working patterns or leave.

The approach has sparked further resignations inside the beleaguered tech giant and now there are concerns Twitter does not have enough skilled engineers in place to keep the platform online – and some departed staff have already been asked to return.

On Friday it emerged that Twitter had closed its offices to workers until Monday amid the turmoil while many users are sharing links to alternative platforms they plan to use should the site be knocked offline by the ongoing uncertainty.

Trade union Prospect, which says it represents a third of Twitter’s UK workforce, has now written to the company raising its concerns about the treatment of the firm’s staff, how its redundancy consultation process will work and has asked for a meeting with Twitter to discuss them.

Elon Musk File Photo
New owner of Twitter Elon Musk (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said: “We are deeply concerned by further reports of the treatment of Twitter employees.

“From removal of remote working, demanding commitment to long hours and unsustainable working practices, and now locking employees out of their offices, we will not let these makings of a digital P&O pass unchecked.

“We are urgently seeking a meeting with Twitter UK Ltd to discuss how it will manage its collective redundancy consultation, ensure a fair and transparent process, and meet its duty of care and legal obligations to employees, including those with particular needs.

“Prospect will continue to do everything we can to support our members at Twitter.

“Big tech barons are not above the law and we will hold Twitter to legal account where possible.”

The intervention comes after hundreds of workers are said to have rejected an ultimatum from Mr Musk to sign up for longer, more intense working hours in order to build a new “hardcore” Twitter, with those who did not sign up told they would be let go.

The Twitter boss had sent an email to staff on Wednesday asking them to click “yes” on a form to confirm they would stay at the company under his new rules, with those who did not by Thursday evening given three months’ severance pay.

The number of staff choosing to leave appears to have surprised Mr Musk and his team, but when responding to a Twitter user on the issue, he said: “The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried.”

The billionaire has now back-pedaled on his insistence that everyone work from the office – his initial rejection of remote work had alienated many employees who survived the first round of lay-offs.

He softened his earlier tone in an email to employees, writing that “all that is required for approval is that your manager takes responsibility for ensuring you are making an excellent contribution”.

Workers would also be expected to have “in-person meetings with your colleagues on a reasonable cadence, ideally weekly, but not less than once per month”.

As well as cutting half of the company’s full-time staff since taking over, Mr Musk has also removed an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation and other crucial efforts.

Many have now taken to Twitter to say their goodbyes to colleagues while there are reports of hundreds of staff confirming in private message channels that they are leaving.

As a result, concerns have been raised that the platform could struggle to stay online as large numbers of people tasked with its maintenance leave the company and that any issues that arise could take longer to fix without key engineers in place to handle such problems.

#RIPTwitter and #GoodbyeTwitter have been trending on the platform as users also consider leaving the site and some have begun pointing followers to their accounts on other platforms.

Social media expert Matt Navarra told the PA news agency that the chances of Twitter being knocked offline have “dramatically increased” in the past 24 hours because of the latest exodus.

He said he believes any imminent blackout is unlikely because certain locks prevent changes to the platform’s base code while Mr Musk reorganises the firm.

“There’s a code freeze in place and Twitter is kind of running on autopilot at the moment with its IT systems, and that a strategic move by Elon Musk to protect the stability of the platform while he figures out the next move,” Mr Navarra said.