At least 900 Google full-time employees (FTEs) have reportedly sided the company’s temps, vendors, and contractors (TVCs) following its decision to cut short contracts of as many as 34 workers responsible for helping Google Assistant develop its ‘personality’. The team of temp workers was more directly responsible for building out the human side of the AI across more than 50 languages, including adding jokes and adjusting the tone and delivery of other content.
Contracts of those TVCs were cut by a month and up to several months but Google is alleged to have been overly harsh in its move to dismiss them. Specifically, the letter alleges that full-time employees were told to distance themselves from temporary employees because offering sympathy or showing solidarity and support could result in the legal liabilities for the company. The result is said to have been a 'cold'
Google's initial response to the outcry from its FTEs was to insist that temporary workers had been given a standard four-week notice that their terms would be shortened and that TVCs are free to apply for full-time employment. It also says that it has tools and resources in place to help workers make that transition.
Google is now said to be working to institute new standards for TVCs to address the issue.
What exactly are the demands that Google is responding to?
In the above-mentioned letter, TVCs and FTEs joined to list three demands centered around respect and empathy. Namely, the workers demanded that Google respect contracts and work by paying TVCs for the full term of the original contracts and by converting TVCs fired to full-time status.
It also asked that Google treat TVCs more humanely, by not effectively cutting of FTEs from empathizing with temporary workers, resulting in what one unnamed worker described as an exceptionally agonizing and stressful situation.
While it may seem that the demands have already been met to a certain degree, in terms of Google's current offering to convert at least some TVCs to full-time employees, that process is still not well understood. Google hasn't offered any insight into what resources it offers and there's really no way to guarantee that work can be found for every temporary employee. Its current policies don't appear to address either of the other two demands at all.
This didn't meet demands
Google has attempted to address the matter further by laying out a plan to offer benefits and better working circumstances to TVCs but, according to now-fired temp workers, that doesn't meet the demands either. Worse, the change wouldn't have any impact on those employees whose early termination spurred the demands to be made, to begin with.
Under the new standards, Google would begin by offering TVCs a minimum wage of $15 per hour starting on January 1 of next year but other benefits wouldn't kick in until January 1 of 2022. At that time, Google has said its new minimum standards will include comprehensive health insurance, a minimum of eight days of paid sick time, and twelve weeks of paid parental leave.
As much as $5,000 per year in tuition reimbursement is included as well, potentially helping some TVCs gain skills to assist their pursuit of a full-time job at Google.
That wouldn't necessarily help address matters either, however, and that only becomes more pertinent as it concerns employees who may not be able to stay at the company for the full term of their contract. Those temporary workers may simply not have enough time to build up the skills required to apply for and obtain full-time work. Recent moves by the company that appear to adjust employees into temporary positions from more stable ones don't improve the outlook their either.