Employees From Twitter Africa Lawyer Up Over Severance From ‘Apartheid Baby” Elon Musk
Twitter employees in Africa aren’t too happy with new Twitter owner Elon Musk, especially since he fired all but one of them.
Twitter had one office on the continent. It was based in Ghana, and Musk recently laid off all but one of the African employees. This happened four days after the company opened a physical office in the capital Accra, CNN reported. There were about a dozen on staff, and one of those let go were offered severance pay, which the former workers say is required by Ghana’s labor laws, based on their employment contracts. Now the group of them have hired a lawyer and they are ready to sue Twitter and Musk, who has been nicknamed by some “Apartheid Baby” as Musk hails from South Africa, where the racially discriminatory system of apartheid was only abolished in 1994.
Musk, who was born June 28, 1971, grew up during apartheid. He moved to Canada to attend college before attending the esteemed business school the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Despite reports, Musk has denied on numerous occasions that he came from a wealthy family. He claims the opposite, that he often had little money growing up. Now the CEO of Tesla, Musk has a net worth of $37 billion. He also co-founded PayPal.
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The employees are accusing Musk of discrimination over severance and are charging Twitter of “deliberately and recklessly flouting the laws of Ghana” and trying to “silence and intimidate” them after they were fired, CNN reported.
The team has hired a lawyer and sent a letter to the company demanding it comply with the West African nation’s labor laws, provide them with additional severance pay and other relevant benefits, in line with what other Twitter employees will receive.
CNN later reported that Twitter finally agreed to negotiate with the laid-off Africa team after the media outlet’s story aired, their lawyer confirms.
The African employees rejected a “Ghana Mutual Separation Agreement” from Twitter, which they say was sent to their personal emails offering final pay, according to the employees’ letter to Twitter Ghana Ltd, obtained by CNN.
In early November, Twitter informed the Ghana-based employees that they would be paid until December 4, which would be their last day of employment.
“It was very vague, did not talk about outstanding leave or paid time off, and just asked us to sign if we agree. I never bothered to go back to the document because it is rubbish and is still in violation of labor laws here,” one former employee told CNN anonymously.
The Accra-based team accuses Twitter of dealing with them in bad faith, not being transparent, and discriminating against them compared to laid-off employees in other jurisdictions.
The attorney for the workers, Carla Olympio, noted that the sudden termination of almost the whole team violated Ghanaian employment law because it is considered a “redundancy” which requires three-month notice to authorities and a negotiation on redundancy pay.
“In stark contrast to internal company assurances given to Twitter employees worldwide prior to the takeover, it seems that little attempt was made to comply with Ghana’s labor laws, and the protections enshrined therein for workers in circumstances where companies are undertaking mass layoffs due to a restructuring or reorganization,” she wrote in a statement to CNN.
“Everyone exited was offered three months of severance, which is 50 percent more than legally required,” Musk tweeted in response to the employee complaints.
The Ghana staff has also petitioned the Ghanaian government to urge Twitter to “adhere to the laws of Ghana on redundancy and offer the employees a fair and just negotiation and redundancy pay,” according to a letter to the country’s Chief Labour Officer obtained by CNN.
“The employees are distressed, humiliated, and intimidated by this turn of events. There are non-Ghanaian employees, some with young families, who moved here to take up jobs and have now been left unceremoniously in the lurch, with no provision for repatriation expenses and no way to communicate with Twitter, Inc. and discuss or plead their case,” the letter continued.
“It is clear that Twitter, Inc. under Mr Elon Musk is either deliberately or recklessly flouting the laws of Ghana, is operating in bad faith and in a manner that seeks to silence and intimidate former employees into accepting any terms unilaterally thrown at them,” the letter stated.
The workers are demanding three months’ gross salary as severance pay, repatriation expenses for non-Ghanaian staff, vesting of stock options provided in their contracts, and other benefits such as healthcare continuation that were offered to staff worldwide, CNN reported.
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, attends the opening of the Tesla factory Berlin Brandenburg in Gruenheide, Germany, March 22, 2022. (Patrick Pleul/Pool via AP, File)