A top lieutenant of Elon Musk allegedly told a fired member of Twitter’s cleaning staff that his job would one day be done by robots, according to a report.
Julio Alvarado, who worked as janitor at Twitter for 10 years before he was let go by Musk’s team, said the work environment changed radically once new ownership took over.
“People worked without worries,” he told the BBC. “Now we are afraid.”
After Musk took over the company, Alvarado said that private security guards would watch him closely while he cleaned parts of the tech mogul’s office.
Alvarado, who supports his family in Mexico by sending remittances, claimed that one of Musk’s most senior assistants told him that his job would be soon rendered obsolete by robots.
The layoffs took place just after the head of the janitor union announced that they were organizing a strike last Monday. Musk and his staff have figuratively cleaned house since taking over Twitter by firing more than half of the company’s engineers.
“I think we were fired because we’re a union,” Alvarado said.
Four janitors who were let go by Musk’s management team told the UK news outlet that they were given their pink slips without any severance pay. One of them said that she won’t have money to feed her family over Christmas or get them gifts for the holidays.
“It’s a sad and frustrating thing for our families and children,” Adrianna Villarreal, who was let go after working as a cleaner at Twitter for four years, told the BBC.
“We are supposed to have Christmas presents for our children, a plate of food on our table and overnight we don’t have anything,” she said.
“They did this three weeks before Christmas,” Olga Miranda, the head of the cleaners’ union, told BBC.
Musk, who fired Twitter’s media relations upon taking over the social media company, was not immediately available for comment.
The firings have caught the attention of San Francisco’s city attorney, who told BBC that he plans to launch an investigation to determine whether Musk violated labor laws.
“Elon Musk has had a long history of flouting labor laws,” the city attorney, David Chiu, told the BBC.
“While I’m not surprised this happened, I feel for these workers. We will be looking into this further.”
This is the second time in the last week that Musk has attracted scrutiny from San Francisco officials.
The city announced earlier this week that it was launching an investigation into reports that part of Twitter’s corporate offices were converted into makeshift sleeping quarters for overworked employees.
Alvarado said losing his job has him worried about how he’s going to make ends meet.
“I can only tell you, I don’t have money to pay the rent,” Alvarado told BBC. “I’m not going to have medical insurance. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Juana Laura Chavero Ramirez told BBC that getting laid off will make it harder for her to afford her medication to treat diabetes.
“It’s just horrible,” she said. “We’re not only losing our job, we’re losing our income.”