Coronavirus | Firm lays off 406 workers in two-minute Zoom call

Firm lays off 406 workers in two-minute Zoom call

During the current coronavirus crisis, employers have had to respond quickly to the uncertain future of the economy, with many putting in place wage cuts or making the decision to furlough staff in order to protect the future of the company and jobs.

For example, US department store Macy’s recently furloughed the majority of its 125,000 staff members, while CEO of the media company BuzzFeed, Jonah Peretti, revealed he would not take home a salary until the pandemic had blown over.

One company has since come under fire for its decision to layoff 30% of its staff. According to Corporate Rebels, electric scooter company Bird, decided to reduce this number of employees in order to ‘extend its runway’, however, it is the way in which the business relayed the news that has been met with criticism.

406 employees reportedly received an invitation to join a Zoom conference call called ‘COVID-19 Update’. Employees were then met with a five-minute silence and a slide that read ‘COVID-19’.

In a recording that was obtained and posted by dot.LA, the company informed the staff that their roles would be terminated and April 3, 2020, would be their last working day with Bird.

The recording, obtained by the publication, read: “This is a suboptimal way to deliver such a message. […] COVID-19 has also had a massive impact on our business. One that has forced our leadership team and our board of directors to make many extremely difficult and painful decisions. One of those decisions is to eliminate a number of roles at the company. Unfortunately, your role is impacted by this decision and Friday April 3rd will be your last day with Bird.

“Thank you for helping build Bird and for making it so very, very, very special. When we come out of the other side […] we hope we can work together again.”

Despite the Zoom call being scheduled for 30 minutes, it allegedly lasted just 120 seconds and was delivered by an unidentified woman, not the company’s CEO Travis Vanderzanden, as expected.

Employees who were on annual leave on the day of the call were unable to log into their computers after the announcement was made, with no idea as to why, which left many finding out the news through the media.

The company then sent a follow-up memo to staff, asking them to return their company items. It said: “IT will send a box with a return shipping label to retrieve company assets (e.g., laptops, chargers, and badges). All items should be put in the box and mailed back to us by April 15.”

Recognising that the delivery of the news may have been thoughtless and insensitive, Vanderzanden stated that the handling of the situation was ‘not ideal’.

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Employees at Bird are not alone in this type of sacking, as HR Grapevine previously reported that staff working for the Broughton arm of Cineworld claimed they found out they had been sacked via Twitter.

A Cineworld Spokesperson told the Daily Post: “Like other businesses in the retail and leisure industry we are facing an incredibly challenging time as a consequence of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We value our employees and want to do everything we viably can to support them in these difficult and uncertain times. Our aim has been to preserve jobs and continue to pay as many staff as possible while they are not working,” the spokesperson added.

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