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Coronavirus effects lead Uber to laying off 3,700 via Zoom



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USA TODAY

The new normal during the coronavirus pandemic means doing your job from home for many. The flip side? Jobs may be terminated remotely, as about 3,700 Uber employees learned recently via Zoom.

Uber used the popular teleconference software to conduct multiple meetings last week to inform employees about the layoffs. The U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail first reported the news and acquired video of one of the calls.

“It’s never easy or uncomplicated to let employees go, and that’s only been more true during this unprecedented period, where we are all working from home across dozens of cities and countries,” the ride-hailing company said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. “We’ve focused on providing the clearest, most empathetic experience possible and have put together a strong severance package and other benefits.”

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In the leaked video, Ruffin Chevaleau, the head of Uber’s Phoenix Center of Excellence in Scottsdale, Arizona, is seen telling viewers that Uber’s business is down by more than half. “With trip volume down, the difficult and unfortunate reality is there is not enough work for many front-line customer support employees,” she said. “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.”

Viewers would remain on payroll until a date in their severance package, she said. Overall, the 3,700 employees worked in 46 countries; with offices closed due to the pandemic, the decision was made to notify employees via Zoom. 

“I know that this is incredibly hard to hear,” said Chaveleau, who appeared to get emotional. “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 job cuts were not unexpected. Last week, the ride-hailing giant announced plans to cut 3,700 jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Those jobs in the company’s customer support and recruiting teams were cut as Uber saw its global ride business decline 80% in April, the company announced last week. (At the same time, its Uber Eats food delivery business has risen dramatically.)

“We’re focused on navigating through this crisis that absolutely leaves us in a position, a stronger position, as the world starts to recover,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Monday during a call with analysts. He has said he would give up his base salary due to the crisis.

He went on to say the company faced “tough decisions like reducing costs … (and) decisions such as refocusing some of the investments that we’re making to make sure that we’re focused in our core. And it is our belief that ride-sharing as a category is going to bounce back when the recovery starts and will be one of the early services that bounces back as cities get going again.”

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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