Over 900 Google workers signed a letter, yesterday, urging Google to treat its contract workers fair. The contract workers at Google make up to nearly 54% of the workforce.
The letter was published on Medium by the Google Walkout For Real Change group. It states that on 8th March, about 82% of the Google’s ‘Personality team of 43 members’ were informed that their existing contract term has been shortened and they will be terminated by 5th April.
Personality team describes themselves as an international contract team responsible for the voice of Google Assistant across the world. “We are the human labor that makes the Google Assistant relevant, funny, and relatable in more than 50 languages”, reads the letter. Given that the contract team consists of expats from around the world, means that many would have to make big changes in their personal life and move back to their respective homes, without any financial support.
The letter states that contractors were assured by their leads that the contract would be respected, however, the onset of layoff globally at the Google offices seemed to belie that assurance. Other than this, the contractors were not informed by Google about the layoffs and termed it as a “change in strategy”.
The letter also sheds light on the discriminatory environment within Google towards its TVCs (temps, vendors, contractors). For instance, neither are the contractors offered paid holidays nor any health care. Moreover, during the layoff process, Google had asked the managers and full-time employees to distance themselves from the contractors and to not offer them any support for Google to not come under legal obligations.
The letter condemns the fact that Google boasts of its ability to scale up and down with agility, stating, “the whole team thrown into financial uncertainty is what scaling down quickly looks like for Google workers. This is the human cost of agility”.
The group has laid down three demands in the letter:
- Google should respect and uphold the existing contract. In case, the contracts were shortened, payment should be made for the remaining length of the contract.
- Google should respect the work of contractors and should convert them to full-time employees.
- Google should respect humanity. A policy should be implemented that allows FTEs (full-time employees) to openly empathize with TVCs. FTEs should be able to thank TVCs for the kind of job they’ve done.
Google’s response to the letter
Google responded to the letter yesterday, stating that they are improving the working conditions of TVCs. As per the new changes, by 2022, all contractors who work at least 33 hours per week for Google would receive full benefits including:
- comprehensive health care
- paid parental leave
- a $15 minimum wage
- a minimum of eight days of sick leave
- $5,000 per year in tuition reimbursement for workers wanting to learn new skills and courses.
“These changes are significant and we’re inspired by the thousands of full-time employees and TVCs who came together to make this happen”, reads the letter. However, the Personality Team is still waiting to hear back from Google on whether the company will respect the current contracts or convert them into full-time positions.
Today, Google announced improved working conditions for TVCs, but "for us on the Personality Team, we are still waiting to hear back about whether the company will respect our current contracts or convert us to full time positions." #ContractWorkerStories https://t.co/SZi8USyDxc
— Google Walkout For Real Change (@GoogleWalkout) April 2, 2019
Eileen Naughton, VP of people operations, Google told the Hill “These are meaningful changes, and we’re starting in the U.S., where comprehensive healthcare and paid parental leave are not mandated by U.S. law. As we learn from our implementation here, we’ll identify and address areas of potential improvement in other areas of the world.”
Check out the official letter by Google workers here.