Google workers hit back at CEO over layoffs: ‘Nowhere have workers’ voices been adequately been considered’

March 17, 2023, 6:02 PM UTC
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.
Hardik Chhabra—The India Today Group/Getty Images

Almost 1,400 employees at Google parent Alphabet Inc. have signed a petition calling for better treatment of staff during the layoff process, after the company announced it was cutting 12,000 jobs.

In an open letter addressed to Chief Executive Officer 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 terminating employees from countries with active conflicts or humanitarian crises, such as Ukraine, and provide extra support to those at risk of losing their visa-linked residency along with their jobs.

“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% of its workforce following investor pressure to reduce spending in the post-pandemic slump. Meta Platforms Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are among the other tech giants to slash headcount in recent months after years of growth and hiring.

A spokesperson for Alphabet didn’t immediately comment on the petition. When Pichai announced the job cuts on Jan. 20, 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 stronger labor protections that are common in Europe. Googlers in Switzerland, for example, only learned which workers were cut this week, triggering a walkout on Wednesday.

The letter was organized by a group of employees supported by unions including the Alphabet Workers Union, United Tech and Allied Workers and UNI Global. It was born out of discussions via a Discord channel set up after the jobs cuts were announced.

Labor groups have helped organize several petitions regarding the layoffs 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 Pichai at the Google’s headquarters in California.

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