A social media post by a software engineer at Pinduoduo, who alleges he was fired after criticising its work practices, has added to a deepening public relations crisis at China’s fastest growing ecommerce company.
A former employee whose surname is Wang released a 15-minute video on Sunday night, in which he alleged Pinduoduo staff had to work from 300 to 380 hours a month. That would equate to a longer work week than the controversial “996” approach that is common across the Chinese technology sector, with workers expected to work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.
“In some teams . . . you’ll be talked to if you don’t work enough hours. (Pinduoduo’s) grocery team at headquarters is required to work at least 380 hours a month and if you work less than that you’ll be asked whether you have enough to do,” Mr Wang alleged in the video that quickly went viral on Chinese social media.
“They lack the consideration for employees that other big tech companies have,” he added.
Mr Wang alleged he was fired on Friday after anonymously posting a picture of an ambulance outside Pinduoduo’s headquarters the previous day and tagging it: “A second Pinduoduo martyr topples over.”
In the video Mr Wang claimed he was called into a conference room by Pinduoduo managers and was asked to sign a voluntary resignation letter.
“I threw the paper back at them and said just fire me,” he said, adding a group of managers escorted him out of the building.
Pinduoduo denied Mr Wang’s allegations. It said he had posted the ambulance picture and “improper speculation” but claimed he was fired because of other social media posts disparaging the company. Pinduoduo said the other allegations he made in the video were “not factual”.
Mr Wang’s firing was among the most talked about topics on Weibo, the Twitter-like social media platform, generating more than 2m likes.
A Pinduoduo post defending its decision drew 240m views. “I’ve uninstalled you! I’ve gotten my mom to uninstall you!! I’ve gotten my sister to uninstall you!” said one popular reader comment.
The Chinese tech sector’s exhausting work culture has come under fire in the past, with an “anti-996” campaign gaining support last year among workers and activists.
The death of a Pinduoduo employee who collapsed late at night on her way home from work reignited the debate last week. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said the country needed to “energetically remove the distorted values behind” overwork in the tech sector, and local authorities in Shanghai said they were investigating conditions at Pinduoduo.
Separately, a Pinduoduo employee surnamed Tan committed suicide on Saturday by jumping from the 27th floor of an apartment building in his hometown of Changsha. Mr Tan had joined the company in July and Pinduoduo said he had requested leave the day before his suicide.
“We feel profound sadness that we lost one of our employees to suicide,” the company said.
Additional reporting by Nian Liu