The Financial Services Union (FSU) says a significant number of the almost 1,400 employees at Google parent Alphabet who signed a petition calling for better treatment of staff during the lay-off process, were based at the company’s Irish offices.
The move by staff came after the company announced it was cutting 12,000 jobs and amid some criticism of the ways in which the process was handled by management.
In an open letter addressed to chief executive Sundar Pichai, employees made a series of demands of the company, including freezing new hires, seeking voluntary redundancies before compulsory ones, giving priority to laid off workers for job vacancies and letting workers finish scheduled periods of paid time off, such as parental and bereavement leave.
The workers also called on Alphabet to avoid cutting the jobs of employees from countries with active conflicts or humanitarian crises, such as Ukraine, and to provide extra support to those at risk of losing their visa-linked residency along with their jobs.
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“The impacts of Alphabet’s decision to reduce its workforce are global,” the letter said. “Nowhere have workers’ voices adequately been considered, and we know that as workers we are stronger together than alone.”
The petition follows Alphabet’s announcement in January that it would cut about 6 per cent of its workforce following investor pressure to reduce spending in the post-pandemic slump. Meta, Amazon and Microsoft are among the other tech giants to significantly cut headcount in recent months after years of growth and hiring.
A spokesperson for Alphabet didn’t immediately comment on the petition. When Mr Pichai announced the job cuts on January 20th, he said in an email to staff that the company hired for a “different economic reality than the one we face today” and that he took “full responsibility”.
Although some Google workers, particularly in the US, lost their jobs immediately, the process has been much slower for those in countries with the stronger labour protections that are common in Europe.
It took a month before it was confirmed that around 240 employees would be affected at Google’s offices in Dublin where more than 5,000 people are employed. Some staff in Switzerland, meanwhile, only learned which workers were to be cut last week, triggering a walkout on Wednesday.
The letter was organised by a group of employees supported by overseas unions including the Alphabet Workers Union, United Tech and Allied Workers and UNI Global. In Dublin, the FSU was involved.
“Hundreds of Irish signatures were on the letter,” says FSU head of industrial relations Gareth Murphy, “and our members distributed among other members here.
“The numbers show the growing momentum for union membership in Google,” he said.
Labour groups have helped organise several petitions regarding the lay-offs at various Google units and in different countries where it is present.
Some of the people who signed the petition told Bloomberg they are concerned that the consultation processes required by law in some countries have become a box-ticking exercise. Feedback from staff to management, including results of surveys where people expressed interest in volunteering for redundancy or reduced hours, has not been taken into account, they said.
The workers plan to circulate the petition for a few more days before presenting a physical copy to Mr Pichai at the Google’s headquarters in California. – Bloomberg