Uber has laid off 3,500 employees, or 14 per cent of its entire workforce, via a three minute Zoom call after the rideshare app took a 80 per cent hit to bookings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a call obtained by the Daily Mail, the head of Uber’s Phoenix Centre of Excellence (its customer service office), Ruffin Chaveleau, told staff it was their last day.
“Our rides business is down by more than half. There is not enough work for many frontline customer support employees. [As a result] we are eliminating 3,500 frontline customer support roles,” Chaveleau said.
“Your role is impacted and today will be your last working day with Uber. You will remain on payroll until the date noted in your severance package.”
Chaveleau became teary as she apologised for telling employees via Zoom.
“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,” the head of customer service said.
“I also wanted to deliver this news personally and just take a brief moment to thank you for your contributions to Uber.”
Staff told the Mail they weren’t given any notice of the call.
“It was controlled. I would prefer to have had notice. The day before, we were told we would know in two weeks what departments would be let go,” an employee said.
“They gave us no notice. If I missed that Zoom call, I would have missed the news. We knew they didn't have the drivers' backs, but they don't have anyone's backs.”
The layoffs follow the company’s near $3 billion net loss announced last Thursday, as well as CEO Dara Khosrowshahi revealing he would forgo his salary for the rest of the year.
“While our rides business has been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, we have taken quick action to preserve the strength of our balance sheet, focus additional resources on Uber Eats, and prepare us for any recovery scenario,” said Khosrowshahi.
The CEO said he felt “encouraged” that rideshare would recover soon.
“Along with the surge in food delivery, we are encouraged by the early signs we are seeing in markets that are beginning to open back up,” Khosrowshahi said.
“Our global footprint and highly variable cost structure remain an important advantage, as our expectation is that the Rides recovery will vary by city and country.”
Chief financial officer Nelson Chai said Uber was poised to weather the storm.
“Our ample liquidity provides us with substantial flexibility to navigate the current crisis, but we are being proactive and taking actions to emerge stronger and more focused as a company,” Chai said.
“We have recently exited eight unprofitable Eats markets, significantly reduced the size of our customer support and recruiting teams,” he said.
“Building on the steps we have already taken, we are continuing to look at all levers to ensure our core Rides and Eats businesses emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”
In a memo sent to staff also obtained by the Mail, Khosrowshahi flagged more cuts could follow.
“We are looking at many scenarios and at each and every cost, both variable and fixed, across the company. We want to be smart, to move fast, to retain as many of our great people as we can, and treat everyone with dignity, support and respect,” he said.
“And with our hiring freeze...'there simply isn't enough work for recruiters.”
Airbnb lays off 1,900 staff via note
Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky revealed the accommodation-sharing app would reduce the size of the Airbnb workforce after suffering a hit due to the pandemic.
“Today, I must confirm that we are reducing the size of the Airbnb workforce. For a company like us whose mission is centered around belonging, this is incredibly difficult to confront, and it will be even harder for those who have to leave Airbnb,” Chesky said.
“Out of our 7,500 Airbnb employees, nearly 1,900 teammates will have to leave Airbnb, comprising around 25 per cent of our company. Since we cannot afford to do everything that we used to, these cuts had to be mapped to a more focused business.”