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Elon Musk’s Twitter accused of unlawful staff firings in the UK


By Clare Duffy, CNN

A law firm representing dozens of former UK Twitter employees is accusing the company of “unlawful, unfair and completely unacceptable treatment” of workers following recent mass layoffs, which the firm referred to as a “sham redundancy process.”

In a letter sent to the company on Monday, law firm Winckworth Sherwood alleged that Twitter violated UK law by cutting off terminated employees’ access to internal systems without engaging in the required warning and consultation period. The letter also said Twitter has failed to provide information about the selection criteria used to determine the layoffs.

The letter states that 43 affected UK employees are prepared to take the issue to an Employment Tribunal, a UK system for employees to bring legal disputes against their employers, if the company does not agree to cooperate with negotiations over the layoff process.

The warning marks the latest challenge to Twitter from former employees affected by mass layoffs that took place after Elon Musk acquired the company in October. Twitter laid off half of its global staff in early November, and has continued to fire and push out additional employees in the months since, including through an ultimatum to work “hardcore.”

More than 300 former US employees have filed demands for arbitration against the company, according to attorneys representing them. Twitter is also facing four proposed class action lawsuits in the United States related to the layoffs. Now, the backlash to the layoffs may be escalating in the UK.

“Our clients have been aghast at the direction taken by their employer, whose mission they have genuinely believed in and, in a number of cases, whose growth and transformation they have supported for many years,” lawyers for Winckworth Sherwood wrote in the letter. “They remain resolved to protect their positions, professional reputations and legal claims against the Company should it now proceed to dismiss them unlawfully and unfairly.”

Twitter, which cut much of its public relations team as part of the layoffs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

UK trade union Prospect, which represents more than 100 UK Twitter employees, also wrote to the company this week raising concerns about its layoff process, including claims that Twitter is “choosing not to honor” its promise that employees laid off following Musk’s acquisition would receive severance with terms no less favorable than prior to his takeover.

Prospect also said the company has given workers “an arbitrary date to sign their rights away” in order to receive better separation terms, although negotiations over the layoffs are ongoing. (Typically, negotiations over mass layoffs by UK companies involve discussions of the reasons for terminations and how to minimize their size and impact.)

“It is to be celebrated that in the UK it is not possible to simply fire employees en masse at will as Twitter has done in other countries,” Prospect, said in the letter. “Rest assured, Prospect will continue to lobby the Government and raise public awareness about employers who treat their workers like commodities to be discarded on a whim.”

In the United States, there have also been concerns among Twitter employees after they began receiving their severance packages last weekend. The offers promise one month’s pay in exchange for agreeing to various terms, including a non-disparagement agreement and waiving the right to take any legal action against the company, according to Lisa Bloom, a lawyer representing dozens of former Twitter employees affected by the layoffs.

Many were dissatisfied by the offer, according to public posts and attorneys representing ex-employees, raising concerns about the terms and saying it falls short of what the company has previously promised to provide to affected employees.

The amount is also significantly less than provided at rivals like Facebook-parent Meta, which laid off thousands of workers around the same time and guaranteed them 16 weeks of base pay plus two additional weeks for each year they were employed at the company.

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