The conversation regarding contractualization in tech companies has once again been brought to the table, when U.S. senators called upon the attention of tech giant, Google, and asked them to regularize their contractors.
Ten U.S. senators jointly sent a letter to the San Francisco-based tech superpower dated July 25, 2019, to ask Google to make their contractors’ full-time employees after six months of working in the company.
The letter, which was sent bearing the signatures of Senators Sherrod Brown, Patty Murray, Bernard Sanders, Benjamin L. Cardin, Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala D. Harris, Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, and Richard J. Durbin, was framed as an objection to the company’s “misuse of independent contractors and temporary workers.”
More contractual workers than full-time employees
The letter referenced a report from the New York Times, which reveals that Google has more contractual employees than regular, full-time employees. The report, where the message was based on also revealed that Google is employing contractors and keep them in the company for a long time and amidst the fact that the job they do is permanent and equal to that of directly employed workers.
“Temporary workers and independent contractors are by definition intended for short-term and non-core work, and we urge Google to end any abuse of these worker classifications and treat all Google workers equally,” the letter reads.
The NYT report reveals that Google employed 102,000 full-time employees and 121,000 temporary and contract workers; however, the letter said that the difference between full-time workers and temporary employees “appears to be in the name only” and the contractors are working the same job alongside full-time employees but with significantly lower compensation.
“In at least some cases, your company determines where these individuals work, the hours they work, the tasks they perform, and whether or not they should continue to work on Google contracts. In the case of temporary workers, they are commonly working on permanent projects alongside full-time Google employees for years and typically at much lower pay than their full-time employed counterparts,” the letter added.
Furthermore, according to the U.S. Senators, the contractual workers in Google have significantly lesser opportunities for career advancement and growth as they are deemed as temporary which makes them vulnerable to Google’s demands as they try to work their way to become full-time workers. These demands, according to the letter, including working overtime and other inappropriate advances. The senators call these practices as “abuses of the independent contractor and temporary worker classifications.”
The Senators highlighted that Google is earning way enough money not to pay their employees fairly and abuse the system of contractualization. The letter said that Google is valued $100 billion and paints into the picture that Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and to whom the letter was addressed, had earned around $400 million in 2018.
Senators demand better working conditions for contractual employees
The senators demand that Google should implement changes in their employment system as soon as possible. Aside from automatically making contractors who worked with the company for more than six months and transitioning them to become full-time employees, the letter stipulated that Google should also prohibit financial disincentives, which includes “conversion fees” specified by staffing agencies in contracts with Google, as the employees’ transition to becoming full-time employees.
Full parity of pay is also expected by the senators for those who are working similar jobs regardless whether they are contractors of full-time employees and as well as full disclosure of the nature of the contract with Google and when can employees expect to be transitioned to becoming full-time Googlers.
Other demands include limitations on the use of independent contractors and temporary workers to temporary or non-core work that is not already performed by full-time employees, the prohibition of mandatory nondisclosure agreements about the terms and conditions of employment, elimination of all non-compete clauses in all employment contracts, and Google’s acceptance to take responsibility and liability for any workplace violations that occur with temporary workers or independent contractors.
“Making these changes to your company’s employment practices will ensure equal treatment of all Google workers and put an end to the two-tier employment structure you have perpetuated. In addition, it will ensure the company’s use of temporary workers and independent contractors are consistent with the intent of those worker classifications,” the letter said.
“Finally, adopting these policies will extend the economic security of Google employment to all individuals who contribute to your company’s success,” it added.