Company Culture
layoffs / Tech jobs

Fastmail union announces company layoffs, including within its bargaining committee

The email platform with Philly-based leadership appears to be the latest in a wider trend of post-pandemic job cuts.

The Fastmail team at its Center City Philadelphia office. (Courtesy Fastmail)

It’s shaping up to be a difficult summer for some tech employees as more layoffs hit the Philadelphia region.

Melbourne- and Philly-based company Fastmail conducted layoffs, according to a Mastodon post from union members last Monday. The email service laid off 60% of the bargaining unit, the group of employees represented by the labor union. In total, 10 people lost their jobs as a result of Fastmail shutting down two US-based teams, Ricardo Signes, head of special projects at Fastmail, told Technical.ly.

Though tech employment is essentially back to the pre-pandemic trend line, there’s no questioning the psychological shift from where vaulted homegrown tech startups once were to where they are now. In 2019, a class of tech startups were the heart of economic policymaking in nearly all big American cities. In Philadelphia before the pandemic, companies like Guru, Crossbeam, Quotapath, Neuroflow, HealthVerity, dbt Labs and GoPuff all had Center City offices — and more than 1,000 employees between them.

Today? They’ve all had layoffs, and most have reduced their office size, or jettisoned it entirely. Fastmail is now no different.

Graph showing U.S. tech employment trends from January 2013 to May 2024. The green line represents the number of employees, with a noticeable spike around early 2020, followed by fluctuating increases.

After a pandemic-era dip, and subsequent boom, tech employment is starting to level out at the trendline, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Fastmail confirmed the authenticity of a note from Chief Product Officer Neil Jenkins that circulated online, saying that affected employees received three months of severance. In the note, Jenkins writes that difficulties collaborating across the world in Melbourne and Philly led to some friction.

“With zero hours of working hours time zone overlap for much of the year, we faced difficulties in collaboration, leading to delays in decision-making and project execution,” Jenkins wrote. “The need for out-of-hours meetings on both sides was impacting everyone’s productivity and work-life balance.”

Product development and marketing activities for Fastmail will now be Melbourne-based.

The layoffs impacted the union’s bargaining committee, a group of representatives involved in dialogue with management, and occurred during the contract negotiations. The union’s post cited developers, product managers, marketing specialists, UX researchers and product designers as some of the roles impacted.

“Fortunately, we were able to negotiate for a much better severance package than we would have gotten had we not unionized when we did,” the post read. “We are grateful for the work that the Communication Workers of America put in on our behalf to get us the best deal they could.”

Still, Fastmail appears to be hiring for tech roles in Philly. It posted a senior systems administrator job last week, which Jenkins said in his note would be a union role. The union will continue to negotiate a contract for the remaining bargaining unit employees.

Fastmail is a subscription-based independent email provider. It started in Australia, but the company acquired Philly-based email service Pobox in 2015. Philly local Helen Horstmann-Allen founded Pobox and joined Fastmail as COO, but left the company last fall.

Fastmail has maintained headquarters in both Philly and Australia with employees in both countries. In fact, Fastmail has had a reputation in Philly startup circles for its strong dev and product culture. This move could be in line with leadership further divesting from its long-held Philadelphia roots, reminding us of Wildbit, the celebrated one-time Old City software product shop that was effectively acquired in 2022.

Updated at 12:15 p.m.

This article mentions Fastmail, a Technical.ly client. That relationship had no impact on this report.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Fastmail

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