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Google employees and contract workers are demanding that the company reimburse the wages of temporary workers, following a Guardian report which found that Google knowingly and illegally underpaid thousands of temporary workers for decades. years.

More than 140 workers have signed a petition to Google executives calling on the company to “immediately reimburse all times, suppliers and contractors (TVCs) who have been knowingly underpaid by Google” and to “create an immediate path to a permanent employment for temporary workers “. workers and put an end to its two-tier perma-temp system ”.

“Google’s deliberate exploitation of TVC is a massive moral failure,” the letter read. “For much of Google’s workforce, ‘Don’t be mean’ is a smokescreen. It’s a way to reap the rewards of unconditional public trust, assuring investors, users, and government entities that Google is trustworthy and friendly, while successfully underpaying and mistreating the majority of their employees. employees.

The letter, which began circulating within Google on Wednesday, was organized by the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), a minority union formed in January 2021 and with more than 800 members in the United States and Canada. The AWU intends to organize both Google’s direct employees, of whom there are more than 140,000 worldwide, and its vast “shadow workforce” of more than 130,000 contract workers, known internally as TVC.

The Guardian on Friday revealed that Google had violated pay equity laws in the UK, mainland Europe and Asia, which require temporary workers to be paid at rates equal to full-time employees doing work. similar. While most Google TVCs are considered vendors, thousands of temps in dozens of countries are protected by local laws requiring pay equity.

In May 2019, company executives realized that the “comparator” data that Google provided to recruiting agencies had not been updated for years, which resulted in it paying temporary workers to rates between 12% and 50% lower than what was required by law.

Rather than immediately tackle the problem, executives have been slow to take action out of concern for the company’s reputation and rising costs for Google services that rely heavily on temps, documents and e -mails reviewed by the Guardian show.

At one point, Google executives pursued a plan to adjust rates just for new hires – at an increased annual cost of $ 17.3 million – while leaving the acting and previously employed in the industry. ignorance of their lost wages, while acknowledging that such a plan was not “the correct result from a compliance point of view.”

Google acknowledged the failures on Friday and said it was conducting a review of its compliance practices and was “committed to identifying and correcting any pay gap that the team has not yet resolved” .

“We’re going to find out what went wrong here, why it happened, and we’ll fix it,” Spyro Karetsos, the company’s chief compliance officer, said in a statement.

Shannon Wait, an AWU member who worked as a temp at a Google data center from February 2019 to February 2021, said the issues with Google’s use of agency workers extended beyond the issue of pay equity.

“The job that I was doing and that so many people are doing for Google in data centers is not temporary work,” she said. “It’s a permanent job that Google employs with subcontractors because it’s cheaper.

“I was not surprised, but I was disappointed that Google went so far as to deprive workers of their hard-earned wages in countries around the world,” she added. “It wouldn’t have happened if they had just had a higher standard of employment practices to begin with, which meant full-time employees were filling those roles.”

The issue of pay equity is just the latest labor dispute to rock Google’s militant employee base. In recent years, company employees have organized and protested its handling of sexual harassment cases, its plans for a censored search engine for China, its contract with the US Department of Defense to provide drone technology, his treatment of TVCs, and allegations he retaliated against labor activists.

AWU is one of the results of these troubles. In its petition, the group called for an end to Google’s “two-tier workforce”.

“The second tier of 130,000 Time Vendors and Contractors (TVCs) is underpaid, often only offers healthcare unaffordable by contracting companies, and is excluded from Google sponsored events,” the letter said.

“Unbeknownst to the public, TVCs may even be fired for publicly declaring that they work for Google… Google has the resources to treat all workers equally, but it chooses not to. for the benefit of hoarding its already astronomical financial resources… We demand that Google create an immediate path to permanent employment for temporary workers and end its two-tier perma-temp system. “

Google declined to comment directly on the petition, but provided a link to a blog post posted Friday on the pay equity issue.