Google Maps contract workers who must return to their offices in Washington state recently circulated a petition to continue working from home as some cannot afford travel, posing another challenge to the plan. of Google aimed at filling offices and restoring life on campus.
The issue affects more than 200 workers employed by outsourcing company Cognizant Technology Solutions, which has asked them to work in an office in Bothell five days a week from June 6. Workers play a vital role in updating routes and destinations on Google Maps. , a service used by more than a billion people per month.
About 60 percent of the 200 workers have signed the petition. They demanded that managers suspend the return-to-work schedule and address employees’ financial, health and childcare concerns first.
“Gas is currently about $5 a gallon, and many of us in the office cannot afford to live near the office due to our low wages and high cost of housing in Bothell,” wrote the Cognizant employees. The petition was backed by the Alphabet Workers Union, which has more than 900 members employed by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and its suppliers.
Full-time Google employees with office jobs were invited to come three days a week. In interviews, Cognizant employees asked for the same flexibility. From June 6, they will no longer have access to work-from-home systems.
The policies highlight the disparities between direct Google employees and contractors. Google is estimated to have well over 100,000 temporary workers, vendors and contractors who spend their time on Google projects but officially work for other companies. Google does not disclose the number.
Cognizant said in a statement that its return-to-work policy depends on the type of work performed by employees and the needs of its customers. “The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority, and we require our employees to be immunized to return to our offices in the United States,” wrote Jeff DeMarrais, director of communications at Cognizant, in an email.
Google spokeswoman Courtenay Mencini said in a statement that the health of her community, including contract workers, was a company priority. Google gave its Washington state suppliers 90 days’ notice for workers to return to the office, and those suppliers decided how to execute that policy, she said.
The Washington contractors said most of them earned between $16 and $28 an hour, much less than typical full-time Google employees. Cognizant officials denied their requests for gas cards or other financial compensation. They said they weren’t offered Google’s private bus services – a popular perk in Silicon Valley – to help get around.
Tyler Brown, a card operator who was hired during the pandemic, estimated he would have to spend $280 of his bi-weekly salary of $1,000 on gas to drive his 2006 Toyota Sienna to the office, 73 miles from his home in Olympia, Washington.
“I get paid $19 an hour,” Brown said. “It doesn’t make sense for me to keep doing” the job. He plans to step down if the return-to-office plan continues.
William Houser, a geospatial data specialist, also said he was wary of a long and expensive journey. His 100-mile round trip each day from Puyallup, Wash., would take more than four hours in total. It began work in April 2021, 13 months after Google closed its offices.
Cognizant employees have expressed other concerns. They said managers gave them 40 days notice to work in person, not a promised 60-day minimum. This means less time to find daycare or move. And they are afraid of contracting Covid-19 in the office.
This is of particular concern to Shelby Hunter, a political trainer who has had four lung operations. He said his bosses told him the back-to-office plan included no medical exemptions.
“I like knowing that the work I’m doing is making a difference,” Hunter said. “I just feel like I was disrespected.”
Google, which has expanded its office footprint throughout the coronavirus pandemic, has used perks like free electric scooters and a concert by pop star Lizzo to entice 164,000 employees back to campuses. The search giant approved 85% of employee requests to work remotely or transfer to another location last year.