Google sets Minimum Wage, adds Benefits for Contract Temps

Google has been slammed for relying on temporary and independent workers who don’t enjoy the same perks and protections as regular employees. The move got some interesting responses.

When changing internal policy because of external pressure, you must make a big splash.

After all, your organization is making changes to curry favor with outside critics and stakeholders, so it’s essential that the news reach them in a convincing and authentic way. For Google, that meant turning to media outlets to share its news.

The big tech company has been criticized for its treatment of temporary workers, as many have scrutinized compensation overall. The issue got more attention as stories about executive misconduct, coverups of sexual harassment and misbehavior and the company’s unorthodox approach to the gender pay gap made headlines.

After the company made changes in response to an organized employee walkout, some decided the company wasn’t doing enough. A group of workers wrote an open letter to CEO Sundar Pichai,

As you know, 20,000 full-time and temporary, vendor, and contract workers (TVCs), recently walked out to protest “discrimination, racism, sexual harassment and a workplace culture that only works for some.” As TVCs who took equal part in the walkout, your silence has been deafening.

Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.” But the company fails to meet this standard within its own workplace. Google routinely denies TVCs access to information that is relevant to our jobs and our lives. When the tragic shooting occurred at YouTube in April of this year, the company sent real-time security updates to full-time employees only, leaving TVCs defenseless in the line of fire. TVCs were then excluded from a town hall discussion the following day. And when 20,000 full-time and TVC Google employees walked out to demand equal treatment for all workers, TVCs were again excluded from the company-wide discussion held a week later.

The exclusion of TVCs from important communications and fair treatment is part of a system of institutional racism, sexism, and discrimination. TVCs are disproportionately people from marginalized groups who are treated as less deserving of compensation, opportunities, workplace protections, and respect. We wear different badges from full-time employees, which reinforces this arbitrary and discriminatory separation. Even when we’re doing the same work as full-time employees, these jobs routinely fail to provide living wages and often offer minimal benefits. This affects not only us, but also our families and communities.

Another open letter, signed by over 900 people working at Google, addressed temporary staffers’ rights.

The letter, claims that temporary workers and contractors account for 54 percent of Google’s workforce, or 122,000 positions. Google declined to share how many of its employees are contractors and how many are full-time employees.

For years, Google employees have raised concerns that the company’s workplace is stratified, with temporary workers and contractors receiving lower pay and fewer benefits than permanent employees.

Now Google is trying to fix the problem, but it says that will take time. Google said on Tuesday it will require temporary and contracted workers receive full benefits from companies it works with in the coming years.The benefits will include comprehensive health care, 12 weeks of paid parental leave, a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and $5,000 a year in tuition reimbursement, according to a Google spokesperson.

In order to continue doing business with Google (GOOG), companies will have until January 2020 to meet the minimum wage requirement and until 2022 to roll out comprehensive health care.

The change comes the same day more than 900 Google workers reportedly signed a letter demanding better treatment of Google’s extended workforce, commonly known at the company as TVCs (temps, vendors and contractors). The letter, from March 27, complained about Google shortening the contracts of several members of the Personality team for the Google Assistant, according to a report by The Guardian. The team comes up with the voice and tone of Google’s digital helper software, a competitor to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

The letter reportedly asserts that TVCs make up more than half of Google’s workforce.

The decision to provide contractors with full benefits ultimately doesn’t fall to Google; it’s decided by the temp companies. But if the temp companies don’t meet Google’s requirements by the deadline, the search giant will have to re-evaluate the business relationship, according to The Hill.

Before the company announced policy changes, spokespeople responded to media inquiries about employee unrest.

A spokeswoman for Google noted that temporary workers were allowed to apply for full-time jobs, had received a minimum of four weeks’ notice, and could potentially receive another assignment from their staffing agency.

“Temporary workers join our workforce when we need to ramp up quickly for projects,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “When particular projects mature, we work to transition temp and vendor roles to regular full-time employee roles.”

The spokeswoman declined to provide information about what, if any, transition assistance it was providing.

For many, the changes came not a moment too soon:

Others felt the changes weren’t enough:

Still others noted that Google has lagged behind other Silicon Valley companies in protecting temporary workers.

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