'Tech Wreck' | 

Fears for Irish staff amid reports of mass layoffs at Facebook’s parent company, Meta

Meta directly employs 3,000 staff in Ireland with up to 6,000 working for its third-party contractors

Meta is expected to announce job cuts this week© NurPhoto via Getty Images

Adrian Weckler, Breda Heffernan, Senan Molony and Caroline O'Doherty in Sharm El-SheikhIndependent.ie

Fears are growing for more Irish tech jobs with reports that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, is planning to embark on a major round of job cuts in the coming days.

Meta directly employs 3,000 staff in Ireland with up to 6,000 working for its third-party contractors.

However, speaking at the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt on Monday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin urged: “Don’t panic.”

After thousands of Twitter staff were informed last Friday that their jobs were gone and locked them out of their systems, the US-based multinational today told Irish staff it would comply with local laws on redundancies, RTÉ reported.

Twitter told Irish staff whose jobs are at risk of redundancy it intends to comply with its statutory requirements to inform the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment about matters to do with its plans to reduce its workforce, the broadcaster said.

The company has also told employees they do not have to work during the 30-day consultation period required by law but has asked that they do not come into the office.

Staff have been told no decisions will be made on redundancies until the end of the statutory consultation period and that they will continue to be paid during that time.

The latest worrying job news follows Twitter’s decision last Friday to axe half its global workforce. Meanwhile payments firm Stripe – considered Ireland’s most important ever tech export to Silicon Valley – is letting go 14pc, or 1,000 workers, across its company.

However, it is feared that the move by Meta could be the largest in the recent spate of tech job cuts.

Irish Meta workers were said in recent days to have been braced for an announcement.

The Wall Street Journal last night reported that Meta is planning to begin the large-scale layoffs as early as Wednesday.

It said the layoffs are expected to affect many thousands of the company’s 87,000-strong global workforce.

Sources said company officials had already told employees to cancel non-essential travel beginning this week.

A spokesperson for Meta in Ireland would not comment on the Wall Street Journalreport last night but pointed to comments made last month by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

At that time he said: “In 2023, we're going to focus our investments on a small number of high-priority growth areas. So that means some teams will grow meaningfully, but most other teams will stay flat or shrink over the next year.

"In aggregate, we expect to end 2023 as either roughly the same size, or even a slightly smaller organisation than we are today.”

The company’s Irish operations include its international headquarters, its Clonee data centre, both in Dublin, and its ‘Reality Lab’ in Cork. It has already moved hundreds of staff into its new larger headquarters in Ballsbridge in Dublin 4.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is considered to be one of the four most important, large-scale tech multinationals in Ireland, alongside Google, Apple and Intel.

There is currently a wave of layoffs under way in tech multinationals here. Last week’s announcements by Twitter and Stripe are set to affect hundreds of employees here.

PayPal, with 2,000 staff, is laying off hundreds of people while Docusign, with 1,000 employees, has also signalled a shrinking workforce.

Coinbase has also let people go, while Apple is reportedly set to freeze new recruitment.

Indigenous tech ‘unicorn’ firms – companies with a valuation of over €1bn – have also announced job cuts in recent months, with Intercom, FlipDish and LetsGetChecked slimming down.

Mr Zuckerberg had previously warned that the company might downsize, telling staff during the summer: “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.

“If I had to bet, I’d say that this might be one of the worst downturns we’ve seen in recent history.”

Having lost significant market share to TikTok, the company is currently trying to build products and services for the Metaverse, a virtual reality platform that Mr Zuckerberg claims will have over one billion people visiting regularly within a few years.

The jobs news comes exactly one year since Facebook changed its name to Meta. In that time, the company’s market value has declined by €624bn, or three quarters.

Speaking at the Cop27 conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said job losses in the tech sector should not spark panic.

The Taoiseach said the Government would be talking to all of the companies and to IDA Ireland, the stage agency tasked with attracting foreign companies.

“I’ve been concerned for some time in terms of the global economic situation because of the war in Ukraine and the implications across the board, across Europe and the world,” he said.

“We do export everything we produce so what happens globally has an impact on Ireland so our challenge is to make sure that we will engage with the IDA and with the companies.”

Mr Martin was speaking as he arrived at Sharm El-Sheikh for the Cop27 climate summit.

He said Ireland had been in this situation before and would respond positively.

“There are issues clearly in the digital area,” he said.

“We are always concerned where the is potential job losses but we always tend to look at with a view that, OK, there are realities out there that we can’t change globally, so how do we deal with this domestically and how do we regroup to look at what new opportunities are out there.

"We’ve done this before so we shouldn’t panic about this. We should understand the realities that are driving this and see what we can do first of all to help employees who could be laid off.

“We have other sectors growing. FDI last year was at record levels and it looks like this year will be a record year again for FDI into Ireland.”

The IDA is now expected to appear before TDs and senators to answer questions on job losses and volatility in the tech sector.

The so-called ‘Tech wreck’ comes as Mary Buckley takes over as interim chair of the industrial development body, with long-time leader Martin Shanahan lost to the corporate sector.

Sinn Féin spokeswoman on Enterprise Louise O’Reilly has written to the chair of the Oireachtas committee on the same subject asking for an urgent hearing.

Her party colleague, Maurice Quinlivan, is chair of the Enterprise committee, and is thus likely to grant the request.

Ms O’Reilly said there had been significant volatility in the tech sector over the past number of days, with numerous reports of mass layoffs in some of the biggest tech companies worldwide.

“As one of the most significant technology sectors in Europe, these reports are a worrying development for tech workers in Ireland,” she said.

“Twitter, Stripe, and Meta/Facebook are just some of the companies who have signalled mass layoffs and workforce reductions.”

She said she was requesting that IDA Ireland be called before the Enterprise committee.

“The treatment of workers at Twitter has been nothing short of abhorrent. Workers at the company in Dublin have been emailed that job losses will be occurring, but they are no clearer as to who, or when, these will take place.

“It also looks increasingly likely that developments around mass redundancies at the company may not be complying with Irish employment law which requires the company to contact the Minister for Employment 30 days before any dismissals take place.”

Referring to Elon Musk, she said an understanding of the new Twitter CEO’s previous dealings with workers means the manner of these moves comes as no surprise.

“In the case of Stripe, of which the Irish state is a primary investor through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, there must be significant discussions with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment (Leo Varadkar) regarding the situation at the company.

She added: “The volatility in the tech sector over the past number of days and weeks further reinforces the need for all workers to join, and be active, in their trade union.

“Workers need a strong voice in the workplace and the only way to achieve through trade unionism.”

Meanwhile it remains uncertain when the Tánaiste, who has been leading a trade mission in Singapore, will be briefed on the tech situation by the IDA, although it is expected to be this week.

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