In this challenging COVID-19 climate, many companies are having a hard time. Their revenue has slowed and profits have evaporated. In cost-cutting measures, businesses have had to make the hard decisions to layoff staff. Some are empathetic, while others take a more callous and uncaring approach to this sensitive matter.
This week, Uber announced that it will layoff 3,500 employees, representing 14% of its workforce. In a sign of the times, with employees working from home, Uber informed the job-loss casualties via an online Zoom call.
The Daily Mail, who first reported the story, obtained a video of the head of Uber’s customer service office, Ruffin Chaveleau, telling people that today was their last day at the company.
Chevaleau soberly shared that Uber’s business was hit hard. The company’s business dropped by over 50%. She said, “With trip volume down, the difficult and unfortunate reality is there is not enough work for many front-line customer support employees.” Chaveleau added, “As a result, we are eliminating 3,500 front-line customer support roles. Your role is impacted and today will be your last working day with Uber.”
Chaveleau was saddened by the call saying, “I know that this is incredibly hard to hear. No one wants to be on a call like this. With everyone remote and a change of this magnitude, we had to do this in a way that allowed us to tell you as quickly as possible so that you did not hear it from the rumor mill.”
Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said of the downsizing, “We’re focused on navigating through this crisis that absolutely leaves us in a position, a stronger position, as the world starts to recover.” Khosrowshahi announced that he will be forsaking his base salary.
This wasn’t the first Zoom firing amidst the pandemic. The Verge previously detailed the circumstances surrounding the layoffs of employees at scooter-sharing startup Bird, which fired 406 employees in a harsh “Black Mirror” style. The unsuspecting workers were asked to log into a one-way Zoom call, after being informed that all other appointments were cancelled. A disembodied voice read a script informing the person that they’ve been laid off. Their Slack and other accounts were shut off and given end dates.
Airbnb took a different, more enlightened approach. The company announced that it will downsize 25% of its workforce. Roughly 1,900 people out of the company’s 7,500 total workforce will lose their jobs. This is one of the largest layoffs that we’ve seen out of Silicon Valley due to the effect of the coronavirus outbreak. What’s different about Airbnb is the manner in which the company informed employees of its plans.
In a message to staff, Airbnb cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky said, “Some very sad news. Today, I must confirm that we are reducing the size of the Airbnb workforce.” Chesky then advised his employees that he will be transparent and offer details, so that everyone is fully aware of what’s happening.
He was forthright and didn’t try to spin the narrative, as he stated, “We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill. Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019. In response, we raised $2 billion in capital and dramatically cut costs that touched nearly every corner of Airbnb.”
He also assured the staff that the “decisions are not a reflection of the work from people on these teams.” Chesky thanked his employees by saying, “We have great people leaving Airbnb, and other companies will be lucky to have them.” The chief executive promised that the company will take care of those that are leaving. “We have looked across severance, equity, healthcare and job support and done our best to treat everyone in a compassionate and thoughtful way,” Chesky added.
His message also said, “Employees in the U.S. will receive 14 weeks of base pay, plus one additional week for every year at Airbnb. Tenure will be rounded to the nearest year. For example, if someone has been at Airbnb for three years and seven months, they will get an additional four weeks of salary, or 18 weeks of total pay.” Twelve months of health insurance will be covered through COBRA.
The airline industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic. The federal government called for the cessation of nonessential travel. Even with essential travel, potential passengers have steered clear.
In response to the dramatic decline in flights and acknowledging that the fortunes of airlines won’t turn around anytime soon, they’ve enacted massive layoffs.
The airlines received billions of dollars from the government to bail them out. The federal bailout for the airline industry barred layoffs, involuntary furloughs or pay cuts for employees. The airline executives, including United Airlines, were cold and harsh. United didn’t even try to hide the fact that job cuts are coming as soon as the required period to retain employees ends. Once the prohibition is lifted on Oct. 1, the workers will get their pink slips. To add insult to injury, workers were told to take unpaid or lower-paid leaves in the interim.