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"Everyone Was In Total Shock" - Uber Singapore Contract Staff Left Hanging After Grab Acquisition

[Update, 28 Mar, 3pm]

Grab has responded to our email, stating:

“We are committed to try and find everyone a home at Grab. The procedure for contract and temp staff is different. Grab will work with the agencies who are managing contract staff to communicate next steps. We will work with the agencies to place staff under existing contracts in appropriate roles.”

Our contact has also updated us on the status:

“I’ve gotten a call from my agent. Currently, within a couple of days we will receive a call from them and then we will know what’s our next step.”

Yesterday (26 Mar), Grab announced its acquisition of Uber’s SEA operations, and while that was the biggest news of the morning, a video on Twitter soon popped up, showing Uber Singapore staff packing up their belongings at their Anson Road office.

The Twitter user who posted the video told Channel NewsAsia that he and other employees were “given two hours’ notice to pack up and leave”, and “were told that they were ‘free to find other employment’ and no compensation package was offered”.

Grab soon responded to the news, and according to a report on Mumbrella, assured all Uber employees that they would be offered positions at Grab.

“All Uber employees in its SEA operations will receive offers to join Grab.”

“As they will no longer have access to Uber’s systems and network, they will be on gardening leave until Grab has found a role and has on boarded them,” said a Grab spokesperson.

Grab CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan also assured in a Linkedin post that their team will be working closely with Uber’s HR to make the “transition as smooth as possible”.

Screenshot of a section of Anthony Tan’s Linkedin post

Grab’s Head of People Ong Chin Yin told Channel NewsAsia that they are “committed to find a permanent home for [Uber employees]”, and had not reached out to them because “it does not have the email addresses of Uber employees yet”.

They have also organised a townhall meeting today (27 Mar) at 4:30pm for all affected Uber employees, in a bid to clarify the situation.

Screenshot of Ong Chin Yin’s announcement

When asked by CNA if there was a breakdown in communication between Grab and Uber, she replied that “she did not want to speculate”, and that they “are trying [their] best to use channels to reach out (to those affected) as soon as possible and be supportive”.

However, it seems that while Uber Singapore’s full-timers have gotten some answers, their contract staff are still left wondering about what’s to come for them post-acquisition.

We talked to an Uber Singapore contract staff (who declined to be named) and found out more about what happened yesterday.

“Faces In The Office Were Different, In Fact Some Were Already Crying”

Q: How long have you been working at Uber?

1 year 1 month.

Q: In the days leading up to the announcement, were there any internal meetings on what’ll happen to staff?

Nope, all the staff just knew about this on Monday morning itself at 10am about the confirmation.

Q: When you came to office on Monday, was there any hint that something was going to change?

Yes, faces in the offices were different – in fact some were already crying. People were told that work can’t be done and the vibe was totally different.

Q: How was the announcement made? Were all of you (both contract staff and full-timers) involved?

We were all placed in the big pantry where we would normally do [our] conference calls from San Francisco.

Normally, only full-time staff [were] allowed for big meetings, but this time round even contract staff were told to join in – that’s when we know something was totally not right.

Q: What were some of the key pointers that were announced? Was compensation/further plans mentioned?

For full-timers, they will be joining Grab. No one will be fired.

However, the position that’s to be offered might not be the same as their current role.

Full-timers are on paid leave [until] further notice. They will have to wait until they get a call from Grab.

Contract staff were told yesterday (26 Mar) was their last day, until Grab gives [us] the next step solution […] or else, [we were] free to go ahead and start applying for another job.

[As for] compensation, it’s not given to contract staff.

If Grab does not hire us, we will get paid according to our notice period in the contract.

Q: How was the mood of the office after that? Were there questions being asked?

Solemn – no one expected it to happen.

What’s more, we were all told to pack within the same day and leave the office by 4pm.

Everyone was in total shock, some were shaking while most broke down.

“What’s the next step” was asked by most.

“How’s their current role”, “How sure that we would be hired by Grab” [were some of the other questions].

As most staff in Uber are foreigners, they [asked about] their working permits and [if they are] allowed to stay in Singapore or not, as the whole transition might take up to 3 months.

Q: Staff were told that they were ‘free to apply for other jobs’ – how did you/your colleagues react to that?

We were all shocked.

[We were] told that all the staff would be hired by Grab during the meeting. However, the next thing we heard was “feel free to apply for other jobs”.

This was one of the most devastating news.

We felt as if [our positions] were not secured and our current position is left hanging.

Q: Grab has stated that they’ll be “having conversations with all 500+ employees on how they would fit into Grab” – has this been communicated to you yet?

Nope, I guess that is for the full-timers.

For the contract staff [like me], we will have to wait from our current agents for get back to us on the next step.

Q: Are you already planning to look for other jobs, or do you intend to wait to see what your agent says?

Currently, we are all applying for jobs. Our position as a contract staff is really at risk.

Q: What about your fellow colleagues on contract? Are they waiting for updates, or have they already given up?

We’re all still waiting for the news, but none of us are putting [high hopes on it].

Most of us by now would have already started applying for new jobs.

We have reached out to Grab for information on what’s next for contract staff, and will update the article if we receive any information from either Grab or the contract staff.

 

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