‘Underpaid’ and ‘overworked’ Google cafeteria staff form a union

Disgruntled employees who work for a third party supplier have tied up with a local chapter of Unite Here

Laurence Berland addresses Google employees about how the company put him on administrative leave during a rally in San Francisco in November, last year. Reuters
Laurence Berland addresses Google employees about how the company put him on administrative leave during a rally in San Francisco in November, last year. Reuters

Nearly 2,300 cafeteria employees working at Google offices across the San Francisco Bay area have unionised, according to media reports.

The workers, who voted to form a union to represent their workplace concerns and safeguard their labour rights, alleged they are “underpaid” and “overworked”, Vox Recode, an American digital media platform, reported.

The affected employees earn wages “starting at around $35,000 (Dh128,450) a year” and don’t receive benefits such as retirement plans that are “standard for full-time Google employees”, it added.

Protesting employees, including dish washers and kitchen workers, have joined forces with a local chapter of Unite Here that represents nearly 300,000 workers in the hotel, food service, laundry and warehouse industries in North America.

“We’re fed up and want change because at one of the richest companies in the world, we’re being overworked and underpaid,” one of the protesting workers told Recode.

Google contracts on-site food service workers through a third party, Compass Group, according to Vox Recode.

“Compass Group and the union are now in the process of negotiating a contract," the publication added.

Food service workers employed by Compass at Google’s New York and Seattle offices have also unionised in the last two years with Unite Here.

The development has come at a difficult time in the history of the 21-year-old technology company, with tensions between workers and management manifesting in a number of areas.

The tech giant is embroiled in several antitrust probes initiated by both US and foreign regulators. Many employees walked out of their jobs for a day in November over its alleged mishandling of sexual misconduct charges against senior executives.

Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday, in November last year, Google fired four employees who were trying to organise a union. A complaint was filed with the National Labour Relations Board and the matter is under investigation.

However, Alphabet-owned Google said that the staff were fired after breaching the company's data privacy policy.

Many employees have also expressed discontent over the hefty package Alphabet’s chief executive Sundar Pichai takes home. He is expected to receive $240 million in stock awards over the next three years if he hits performance targets, as well as a $2m annual salary, according to a company filing last month.

At a staff meeting last year, one Google worker asked why Mr Pichai had been paid so much when some employees struggle to afford to live in Silicon Valley.

Alphabet’s net profit fell 23 per cent to $7.07 billion in the third quarter to September 30, with the company's bottom line hit by spiralling investment in new initiatives such as cloud infrastructure.

During the quarter, the company posted its highest ever quarterly expense figure of $31.3bn — up 25 per cent year-on-year.

Updated: January 2, 2020 08:34 PM

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