Google workers have been reduced to tears by fears of being made redundant, a union representative told a London rally.
Employees protested outside the tech giant’s King’s Cross headquarters on Tuesday over its alleged “appalling treatment and union busting” of staff facing redundancies.
Scores of Google employees who are Unite union members staged the demonstration, with some chanting “What’s disgusting? Union busting” and “Enough is enough”.
Others clutched placards with messages such as “Being evil is not a strategy” and “R.I.P Google culture 1998 – 2023”.
It comes after Google’s parent company Alphabet announced plans in January to make about 12,000 workers redundant across its global operations, which Unite, the biggest union at the company, fears could lead to about 500 UK job losses.
Unite claims Google’s UK management has since “ignored” most of the concerns put to them by its elected workplace representatives and “closed the collective consultation process on the redundancy plans”.
Google said it has been “constructively engaging and listening to employees”.
According to the firm, it is working through due legal process, fully adhering to requirements in the UK and consulting with employee representatives when required.
Anonymised statements from Google workers were read out at the rally by Unite regional officer Matt Whaley.
One said “the most dedicated Googler I know was was laid off”, another that “Google has failed to live up to its values and do the right thing by its employees”.
Unite claims Google is refusing to allow union representatives to attend one-to-one consultations with workers.
It also alleges that employees with disabilities are being told to get a doctor’s note if they want a colleague to attend their meetings and “even then, union representation is still prohibited”.
Mr Whaley said Google has treated the consultation process as a “tick box exercise”.
He added: “I’ve had people crying to me on meetings because of how bad the company is treating them. I’ve had people with neurodiversity or where English isn’t their first language stressing about these meetings, wanting a companion and Google saying get a doctor’s note.
“We’ve had people on maternity leave return to work and their job doesn’t exist.”
He told the PA news agency: “On a personal level I’ve had members crying to me.
“On a collective level, people are very angry about that, even people who are not in line for redundancy this time think that the way their colleagues have been treated is disgusting.
“There are a number of international workers here on Google visas, some of them from places like Russia, from Ukraine and they may now face deportations back to hostile countries.”
Google has been approached for comment on the specific claims relating to staff on work visas and returning from maternity leave.
Unite further claims the company has refused to listen to individual employees’ grievances about the redundancy process, as formal acknowledgment of such complaints would give workers the right to have a union representative attend their consultation.
It also raised concerns that Google is trying to “limit legal representation for workers”, who it said have to sign a settlement agreement to receive a redundancy package.
Unite also questioned the “independence of the legal services available to the workers”, claiming Google staff were told they can use only solicitors from a list approved by the company if they want to receive a payment for legal costs.
In a statement provided ahead of the protest, Mr Whaley said: “Google’s treatment of staff and attempts at union busting during the redundancy consultation process are appalling and potentially unlawful.
“Unite will not back down until Google allows workers full union representation, engages properly with the consultation process and treats its staff with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
A Google spokesperson said: “As we said on January 20, we’ve made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce by approximately 12,000 roles globally.
“We know this is a very challenging time for our employees.
“In the UK, we have been constructively engaging and listening to our employees through numerous meetings, and are working hard to bring them clarity and share updates as soon as we can in adherence with all UK processes and legal requirements.”
According to Google, the company will support any employees whose roles are impacted by the job cuts.
Google reported £3.4 billion in turnover and a profit of £896 million in the 18 months to the end of December 2021 and paid £200 million in UK corporation tax.
Published: by Radio NewsHub