March 24, 2023: At a time when Big Tech giants have been sacking people left, right, and centre, more than 1,500 employees of Google’s owner Alphabet got together and sent a petition to CEO Sundar Pichai, calling for better, equitable, and more compassionate treatment of existing staff. Last January, US-based Alphabet announced that it was cutting 12,000 jobs.
The open letter from the Alphabet staff to their CEO came amid a flurry of mass firings announced by popular technology companies since the start of last winter. Twitter, Snapchat, Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft, HP, Salesforce, IBM, and SAP are among those tech bigwigs that have been retrenching staff, drawing severe criticism for their decisions.
The letter, drafted by nine individuals and later signed by nearly 1,500 others, calls upon Pichai to pledge five “public commitments”. They include granting priority to rehire Alphabet employees recently sacked, and protecting the jobs of those working from conflict-ridden countries, such as Ukraine.
“We are thus coming together across the world to be heard,” the Alphabet staff wrote in the petition, signing off with the words – “Don’t be evil.”
Here is the letter to Pichai from the 1,500+ Alphabet employees:
[Full text of the petition]
1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy,
Mountain View, CA 94043
The impacts of Alphabet’s decision to reduce its workforce are global. Nowhere have workers’ voices adequately been considered, and we know that as workers we are stronger together than alone. We are thus coming together across the world to be heard.
Specifically, we are asking for the following public commitments from you:
1) Freeze all new hires during the layoff process. First ask for voluntary redundancies and voluntary working time reduction before compulsory layoffs. Allow for employee ‘swaps’ to further avoid compulsory redundancies.
2) Grant priority rehire to any Alphabet employees that have been recently laid off. Prioritise internal transfer options, prioritized access to jobs without the need to re-interview and agree to a fair severance package.
3) Protect our co-workers from countries with active conflicts or humanitarian crises (such as Ukraine, Russia, etc). Do not terminate employment when it would adversely affect visas, which could require workers to return to unsafe or unstable countries. Provide extra support to these and workers at risk of residence permit loss: help with job searches—internal and external — and provide adequate gardening leave.
4) Respect scheduled leaves (maternity, baby bonding, carer’s, and bereavement) and do not give notice until the leave is finished. Workers given notice will be notified in-person and will be given the opportunity to say goodbye to their coworkers.
5) Ensure there will be no discriminatory effects based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic identity, caste, veteran status, religion, and disability.
We call on you and Alphabet more broadly to make these critical public commitments. Our company has long touted its commitment to doing right by its users and workers, and these commitments will show Alphabet adhering to the final line of its Code of Conduct: Don’t Be Evil.
We know this is within your means and your ability to accomplish.
Sharon Adongo, Cloud Program Manager, Ireland, Financial Services Union
Hannah Pascal, SWE, UK, Workplace rep for Unite the Union & Collective consultation rep for P&E
Mairéad O Leary, Google, Recruitment Operations, Ireland, FSU
Mike Johnson, SRE, UK, Workplace rep for UTAW-CWU
Dan Lee, Product Manager, UK, UTAW-CWU
Ela Verman, SRE, Syndicom
Syed Albiz, Software Engineer, Canada, Alphabet Workers Union-CWA
Stephen McMurtry, Senior Software Engineer, United States, Communications Chair for Alphabet Workers Union-CWA
Parul Koul, Software Engineer, Canada, Executive Chair for Alphabet Workers Union-CWA
and the undersigned.
[The petition ends]
(The article will be updated with Sundar Pichai’s remarks, if and when he issues a public reaction to the petition.)
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