Strike threats over return-to office orders and cases of recruiters reportedly skimming a percentage of contractor salaries are just some of the developments being addressed by the Alphabet Workers Union.
Google Maps contract workers in the US will not be returning to the office just yet, the US-based Alphabet Workers Union announced. They received a 90-day extension from their employer, IT services firm Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. (NASDAQ: CTSH).
The contract workers — who are based at Google’s office in Bothell, Washington — threatened on June 2 to strike over a requirement they return to the office. Cognizant emailed the 90-day extension shortly thereafter, Staffing Industry Analysts reported.
The report stated that workers were concerned about Covid-19, and some were struggling to find childcare, said Shelby Hunter, a policy trainer at Cognizant and a member of the Alphabet Workers Union.
“A group of more than 123 Alphabet contract workers had sent a letter to Cognizant on May 20 demanding the Google Maps workers have the option to work from home. The union at the time noted more than 200 workers were being brought back to the office. It also said some of the workers lived far from the Bothell office, and their work has been uninterrupted while working from home. The workers receive an hourly rate of $16 to $28 per hour,” said the SIA report.
The union agreed to provide organising, strategic and financial support to striking workers.
“We are calling on Cognizant and Google to submit their new return-to-office proposal in writing to workers and sit with us to directly negotiate the terms of a safe, flexible and fair return to office transition,” said Monika Moore, a GIS specialist and member of the Alphabet Workers Union.
This is the second instance in recent months where Alphabet contract workers, with support from members of AWU-CWA, collectively organised, issued demands, and were ultimately successful in forcing management to meet worker demands.
In November 2021, Google data centre contractors came together to win back the pandemic bonuses they had been promised. Within a few short weeks, workers successfully won back thousands of dollars in pandemic bonuses from Modis management, reported AWU.
“Systemic wage theft”
Salary skimming is nothing new for some UK contractors who have fallen foul of dodgy umbrella companies who have pulled off the same thing with complicated payslips. However, when a group of Google contractors in the US found out that their recruitment agency had been taking $10 off their hourly rate for months they went to the press to make it known. The recruitment agency in question reportedly had been telling the end client, Google, that they were paying the contractors in the region of $30.08 an hour when in fact they had only been paid $20.
The earliest reports occurred as long ago as 2019, and workers say the payroll errors are happening so regularly that they believe it to be a kind of “systematic wage theft”, The Verge has reported.
The contractors were producing help pages for the Google Help Center and other internal support tools — but they were employed through a series of “nesting” contract agencies, said the Verge report. Google uses Accenture’s Flex program (among other contractors) to scale up for support content. Accenture contracts with a separate company called Artech to recruit and onboard suitable workers.
@Artech_LLC describes itself on Twitter as a Minority– and Women-Owned Business that provides Workforce Solutions and Project-Based Solutions.
The Verge reached out for Artech comment and at first, received a response from Artech general counsel Eric Szoke denying the “allegations in their entirety,” who also noted that Artech’s contractual terms with its client was a confidential matter.
However, shortly after Artech sent the statement, Guy Mylius, an affected contractor that was quoted in the Verge report, received his back pay in full from the company. No explanation was given for the timing of the repayment, said the report.
The Alphabet Workers Union-CWA invites any Alphabet contractor who has been denied access to Google’s publicised benefits to reach out and calls on Google to extend these benefits to all Alphabet workers without qualifications.