Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Google Pace Fighting Loss Of Pandemic Bonus And Winning

Ned McNally, a temporary employee at Google’s data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, received notice in August that he would receive a $ 200 weekly bonus by the end of the year for working a full week. It was a hint of the labor shortage devastating businesses during the pandemic.

But by October, McNally and some 250 other temporary datacenters had stopped receiving payments, even if they hit the weekly traffic threshold.

According to an email sent to employees of Modis, a division of Adecco, Google’s largest recruiting agency, the payment raised concerns among Google managers and the bonus program was suspended. Then, on October 27, Modis announced that the additional payments had been stopped and that workers would not receive their wages back for the weeks during which they worked the full 40 hours.

What happened next was unusual for many temporary workers and contractors in the tech industry: Google and its recruiting agency backed down.

McNally is one of Google’s temporary employees who is a member of the Alphabet Workers Union, which was formed this year to protect employees and pressure the company to act ethically. The union has more than 800 members, still less than 1% of the company’s workforce, consisting of full-time employees, as well as temporary employees and contractors.

After the bonus program was canceled, Alphabet union members working as temporary workers in Google’s data centers began organizing a coordinated response last week to protest Modis’ decision. But last Friday, the company said it was resuming the program.

“The union has definitely strengthened people’s resolve to stand up for the fight,” said McNally, 27, who makes $ 15 an hour as a data center specialist and joined the union when he joined Google in March.

Workers bombarded management with over 100 messages and emails demanding them explain why they were not getting paid. They also organized a videoconference for 130 workers to discuss what else could be done, including drafting a complaint letter. Some workers even discussed stopping work, which would be extremely unusual in the tech industry.

A few minutes before the scheduled videoconference with the union, the Modis manager who sent an email announcing the end of the bonus program sent another message. He said payments would resume next week, that temporary workers would be paid back and that the program would run until December 19.

It is unclear whether the threat of labor shares played a role in Modis’ announcement to reverse its decision. Modis did not respond to a request for comment.

Modis provides many temporary professionals working in 14 Google data centers in the US. Most businesses are in states where Google doesn’t have large offices and are in remote locations with access to cheap renewable energy. When lobbying politicians, Google often cites these centers as examples of company-created jobs.

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In a written statement, Google said the $ 200 weekly bonus program was established by Modis and was “temporarily suspended” due to “a billing error and misunderstanding.” The message says that the issue has been resolved, and workers have already begun to receive bonuses.

The organized response offered a blueprint for how the unions of well-paid and well-served employees of technology companies can use their power to support the workers’ rights of the armies of temporary workers and contractors working alongside them. The union told the temporary members that it would support any action they decide to take and helped with the drafting of a potential letter, and also supported the Modis workers’ organization.

Parul Cole, chairman of the executive board of Alphabet Workers Union, said the incident demonstrates “how Google’s two-tier hiring system is designed to exploit workers” to “extort labor from contractors such as Modis workers who provide core services for Google and other subsidiaries. of the Alphabet company “.

For years, Google has relied on a large temporary and contractual staff to meet its workforce needs. While Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has over 150,000 full-time employees, the number of temporary employees and contractors exceeds that number. It is up to companies like Adecco to provide and manage these workers in order to release the company from the legal obligations of the employer.

This isn’t the first time Google and its recruiting agencies have underpaid temporary workers. Earlier this year, Google admitted that it was using outdated pay rates for temporary workers in many countries around the world, which is a possible violation of equal pay laws.

Jade Coleman, 19, said they started working as a temporary employee at Modis at Google’s data center in Iowa in July. They say that their job of diagnosing computer hardware in an enterprise is exactly the same as that of Google staff at the enterprise. They have entered into a three-month contract, and three days before its expiration, they are informed whether their contract will be renewed.

“I go out to the shop and do the same work as regular Googlers,” they said. “But I am considered more disposable.”

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