Google employees walk out of the London office in protest of layoffs
A group of Google employees staged a walkout at the company's London office to protest against the planned job cuts that Google announced in January, which will affect around 12,000 employees globally.
The walkout was organised by the Unite trade union, which represents hundreds of UK staff at Google and alleges that senior management has repeatedly ignored concerns raised by elected Unite workplace representatives.
Google employs over 5,000 staff in the UK and it is expected that a significant portion of this workforce could be impacted by the cuts. The company is holding one-to-one consultations with workers, but according to Unite, it is refusing to allow union representatives to be present during these meetings.
Unite claims that Google has even gone so far as to refuse to hear grievances on the redundancy process put forward by individuals because acknowledging such grievances would give individuals the right to have a union representative attend their consultation.
Protesters added that senior leadership has proven they intend to ignore the statements made by Google's founders and care only about the whims of activist investors and share price.
Unite regional officer Matt Whaley accused Google of 'union busting' and claimed that Matt Brittin, president at Google Europe and Google Africa, had refused to engage with the union. The trade union argues that the tech industry needs to unionise more than ever, and that Google's behaviour is an example of the company disregarding its employees' welfare in favour of financial gain.
Unions have historically been less prevalent in the tech industry, where many workers are highly skilled and have enjoyed relatively high pay and benefits. However, the increasing use of contract workers and the growth of the gig economy has led to a more precarious employment landscape, and tech workers are now recognising the importance of collective bargaining to protect their rights and interests.
In addition, the high-profile nature of the tech industry means that companies face greater scrutiny and pressure to act responsibly, making them more vulnerable to public criticism and protest.
The events at Google's London office highlight the ongoing tension between corporations and their employees, as workers demand greater say in the decisions that affect their livelihoods. While Google has stated that the job cuts are necessary to streamline its operations and remain competitive, the protests suggest that employees are not willing to accept this explanation without a fight. As the tech industry continues to evolve, it is likely that trade unions will play an increasingly important role in representing workers' interests and ensuring that they are treated fairly by their employers.