In January, Google announced that it would lay off 12,000 employees, which was 6% of its total staff, in a drastic cost-cutting exercise amid fears of a looming recession.
This move was the company's biggest-ever round of layoffs and added to tens of thousands of other job losses announced by Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook parent Meta, and other tech companies as they tightened their belts amid a darkening outlook for the industry.
During that month, major companies in the sector had announced at least 48,000 job cuts, and more cuts are on the way. However now, Google employees have penned an open letter to Sundar Pichai, demanding better handling of its mass layoffs.
The employees have asked the company to freeze new hires and prioritise laid-off workers for job vacancies, as well as allow workers to complete scheduled leave, such as parental and bereavement leave.
“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,” read the letter signed by more than 1,400 workers.
Workers have specifically demanded:
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. Prioritize internal transfer options, prioritised 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 good-bye 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.
On January 20, Pichai, the CEO of Google parent Alphabet, had emailed the company's staff, stating that the company was cutting approximately 12,000 jobs, and that he took "full responsibility for the decisions that led us here."
Subsequently, those who were laid off from Google had shared their experiences of losing their jobs. For example, a husband said that he and his wife had stared at each other in "disbelief" after learning that they both had been laid off. In addition, a former Google employee had told Insider that he had lost his job while on carers' leave, taking care of his terminally-ill mother.
According to a Google employee who was not laid off, some of the workers who kept their jobs had cried during meetings on the day the layoffs were announced. Insider had requested comments from Google and Alphabet Workers Union outside normal working hours, but they didn't respond immediately.
According to a Google employee who survived the layoffs, some of the colleagues who retained their jobs had cried during meetings on the day the layoffs were announced, as reported by Insider.
Media outlets had reached out to both the Google and Alphabet Workers Union for comment outside of normal working hours, but there has been no response.