Big tech companies haven’t been immune to the economic challenges of the global pandemic, but those hardships haven’t been borne equally. A New York Times report reveals that while Google has recently added some perks for full-time staff to make working from home easier, it’s also rescinded job offers for “several thousand” temporary and contract workers.
In an email sent to contract agencies obtained by the Times, Google said it was “slowing our pace of hiring and investment, and [was] not bringing on as many new starters” as it had originally planned to do in 2020. The result is that more than 2,000 people who had signed offers to begin working for Google as contractors were suddenly left jobless in a craptacular job market. And apparently, this is the second wave of rescinded offers, with the first occurring in April.
To make matters worse, the Times says many of the contractors and temps were afforded no severance or financial compensation, despite the fact that Google strung them along for weeks. Complicating matters, those who accepted the offers and voluntarily left their previous jobs were left ineligible for unemployment.
While it might seem like this was inevitable because of the economic downturn and heavily publicized dip in advertising, Alphabet has a reported $1 trillion valuation as of January this year. Google’s parent company also reported $41.2 billion in revenue for Q1 2020, with a net profit of $6.8 billion. So while the advertising slump is real, it’s callous of Google to suddenly cut off contract workers it had already promised work to.
That’s especially true when you consider Google is also known for providing its full-time staffers with several perks. It makes sense that plenty of people looking for work might jump at the chance for contract work at Google, viewing it as a gateway to a potential career at one of the most recognizable companies in the world.
In 2019, Google employed 121,000 contractors, who make up about half of the company’s entire workforce. This ‘shadow workforce’ has often been treated like second-class citizens, leading some at Google’s Pittsburgh office to start unionizing. Last summer, U.S. Senators also called Google out on its shitty treatment of contractors, penning a letter urging the company to bring on contractors full-time if they’d been employed for more than six months.
The disparity between how Google treats its non-full time staff has also been on full display during the pandemic. In March, Google expected contractors to still commute into the office while the full-time staff was afforded the ability to work from home. Meanwhile, in a blog outlining Google’s plan for returning to offices, CEO Sundar Pichai noted the company would be giving full-time staff a $1,000 stipend to buy computers and office furniture to make working from home more comfortable. Google did extend some assignments for temp workers by about 60 days through May 15, reduced their office schedules, and committed to providing sick leave.
Still, Google’s efforts did nothing to help stiffed contractors, who were told week after week that their starting dates would be postponed—only to find out their promised jobs had vanished. Gizmodo reached out to Google for comment on why it chose to forgo offering severance to these workers, we’ll update this post when we receive a response.
Update, 05/29/2020, 3:30pm:
A Google spokesperson sent the following statement after publication.
“As we’ve publicly indicated, we’re slowing our pace of hiring and investment, and as a result are not bringing on as many new people—full-time and temporary—as we’d planned at the beginning of the year. We’re continuing to hire in a number of strategic areas.”