About a year ago, Ghana welcomed the infamous global communication platform Twitter onto their shores. Former CEO Jack Dorsey opened Africa’s very first Twitter head office in Ghana, a decision met with excitement and enthusiasm. However, the future of the partnership reached a level of uncertainty when incumbent billionaire CEO Elon Musk purchased the company for over $40 million. Questions about Musk’s intentions with the fledgling office arose and the answer has been unsavoury to say the least.
Musk’s tenure at the helm has been all but smooth sailing. His controversial changes to the processes of the much loved app have front page news for weeks. From paid verification badges, the return of ex-US President Donald Trump on the platform, to the mass lay-off of Twitter employees. All but one employee at Twitter office in Accra were fired just days after the building was opened.
The laid-off employees have spoken out against the apparent disregard towards Ghana’s labour laws and have hired attorney, Carla Olympio, to represent them. The dozen workers state that the decision to lay them off was not only sudden but they did not even receive the agreed upon severance pay. Furthermore, they are accusing Twitter of trying to silence and intimidate them.
Contrary to Musk’s tweet that said, “Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required,” the employees have come forth with information that says otherwise. In a letter to Twitter they demand that the company complies with Ghana’s labour laws and increase their severance pay, foot the travel costs for non-Ghanaian employees and other related benefits such as health care on par with other Twitter employees. The staff believes that “Twitter, Inc. under Mr Elon Musk is either deliberately or recklessly flouting the laws of Ghana.” They further stated that the company is “acting in bad faith” and intimidates them into “accepting any terms unilaterally thrown at them.”
“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 labour laws, and the protections enshrined therein for workers in circumstances where companies are undertaking mass layoffs due to a restructuring or reorganisation,” wrote their attorney in a statement to CNN.
The employees raised the issue of the “Ghana Mutual Separation Agreement”. This agreement was sent to their personal emails offering final pay that the company claims to have been arrived at after a negotiation. However, a number of workers deny the occurrence of any settlement discussions. “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 labour laws here,” said one of the ex-employees.
The employees further appealed to Ghana’s Chief Labour Officer with their dilemma. In the notice they stated that they are “distressed and humiliated by this turn of events.”
Twitter endeavoured to build a relationship with Ghana for multiple reasons including to expand its presence in Africa’s tech arena. The mutual advocacy for free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet made the partnership a no-brainer but all that hangs in the balance now. Currently, there is no telling what Musk’s next move regarding the partnership will be. Will it dissolve or will he steer it in a different direction with an entirely new staff. Only time will tell.