Google layoffs: ‘Most powerful company instilling fear’ say sacked employees, appeal in Labour Court

Google dismissed employees for protesting against its cloud project with Israel, leading to accusations of violating labour rights and attempts to instil fear in employees.

Written By Fareha Naaz
First Published1 May 2024, 12:39 PM IST
Google layoffs: Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to staff stating that work is not a place to fight over disruptive issues or debate politics, a day after dismissing employees.
Google layoffs: Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to staff stating that work is not a place to fight over disruptive issues or debate politics, a day after dismissing employees.

Google, Alphabet Inc's subsidiary, dismissed employees for staging protests at two company offices in April over the company’s cloud project with Israel, dubbed Project Nimbus. This particular contract—a cloud computing deal valued at $1.2 billion—with various branches of the Israeli government, including the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was jointly secured by Google and Amazon.

The sacked workers filed a formal complaint on Monday, April 29, with the US National Labor Relations (NLRB) Board, accusing the company of infringing on their labour rights under US labour law after the tech giant fired almost 50 workers. 

Also read: Google layoffs: Sundar Pichai-led Alphabet's arm fires entire Python team, says report

Earlier, in April, Google emailed 28 employees, terminating their service, citing disruption of operations in office premises due to agitations non-conforming with the official code of conduct. Later, the tech giant laid off 20 more workers.

The Washington Post, citing documents filed by the fired employees, stated Google violated their rights “by terminating and/or placing them on administrative leave in response to their protected concerted activity, namely, participation (or perceived participation) in a peaceful, non-disruptive protest that was directly and explicitly connected to their terms and conditions of work.”

Also read: Apple forms secretive AI lab in Zurich, hiring 36 ex-Google experts to target advanced AI development: Report

What Google said about the layoffs

Google termed the employees' dissent “completely unacceptable” and issued a statement that read, “We carefully confirmed and reconfirmed that every single person whose employment was terminated was directly and definitively involved in disruption inside our buildings.”

What fired employees said on Google's stand on agitation

A former Google employee, Zelda Montes, who was arrested while staging the protest, said, “Google is attempting to instil fear in employees,” reported Reuters. She claimed that Google's actions were directed to stop organising efforts in the company, sending the message across to all of its employees that dissent would not be tolerated. 

Also read: Google layoffs: Sacked employee posts ordeal on Linkedin — 'longest 5 minutes in my life'

One of the fired workers, a software engineer at Google, said, “That’s legally protected activity,” reported the Washington Post. Suggesting the tech giant's widespread impact, the employee said, "Google is probably the most powerful company in the world, and the work the workers do every day has an incredible impact. To pretend it’s objective and you can’t talk about the effects of that is absurd.”

What Sundar Pichai said about the protests

Google CEO Sundar Pichai's blog post stated, “Ultimately we are a workplace and our policies and expectations are clear: this is a business, and not a place to act in a way that disrupts coworkers or makes them feel unsafe, to attempt to use the company as a personal platform, or to fight over disruptive issues or debate politics.”

 

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First Published:1 May 2024, 12:39 PM IST
HomeNewsGoogle layoffs: ‘Most powerful company instilling fear’ say sacked employees, appeal in Labour Court

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