Google Staff In London Walkout Over Job Cuts

Google Central Saint Giles

Some of Google’s 5,000 staff in the UK walkout over dispute about job cuts, mirroring similar walkout in Zurich last month

Alphabet’s offices in London reportedly witnessed a walkout by some staff on Tuesday, in a dispute over the massive job cuts being carried out at Google.

Reuters reported hundreds of Google staffers had staged a walkout at the company’s London offices on Tuesday, after Alphabet had announced in January that it would cut 12,000 jobs worldwide, or roughly 6 percent of its workforce.

It is not clear how long the walkout was, or the exact number of Google staff involved, but it comes after Google staff at its Zurich office in Switzerland last month also staged a similar walkout, with local employee representatives claiming Google had rejected their proposals to reduce job cuts.

Google Central Saint Giles
Google Central Saint Giles

Staff walkouts

Google’s senior management has previously stated they have been engaged in redundancy talks in many parts of Europe, in line with local employment laws.

But Reuters reported that in the UK, the trade union Unite, which counts hundreds of Google’s UK employees among its members, said the company had ignored concerns put forward by employees.

“Our members are clear: Google needs to listen to its own advice of not being evil,” Unite regional officer Matt Whaley was quoted as saying.

“They and Unite will not back down until Google allows workers full union representation, engages properly with the consultation process and treats its staff with the respect and dignity they deserve,” Whaley reportedly said.

A Google employee attending the protest, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told Reuters that talks between employees and management had been “extremely frustrating.”

“It has been difficult for those involved. We have a redundancy process for a reason, so that employees can make their voice heard,” they said. “But it feels as if our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.”

Google employs more than 5,000 people in the United Kingdom.

Listening to staff

Google however had a different take on the matter, to that of the trade union.

“As we said on January 20, we’ve made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce by approximately 12,000 roles globally,” a Google spokesperson told Reuters. “We know this is a very challenging time for our employees.”

“In the UK, we have been constructively engaging and listening to our employees through numerous meetings, and are working hard to bring them clarity and share updates as soon as we can in adherence with all UK processes and legal requirements.”

Cost cutting

Alphabet is undertaking the job cuts and cost reductions, as the decline in advertising spending has impacted its fiscal results.

Alongside the job losses, Google has also said it would reduce office space in Q1, and warned that other real-estate charges are possible going forward.

One of the unpopular cost cutting measures introduced recently was a desk-sharing policy, which CEO Sundar Pichai defended last month saying that “it feels like a ghost town” in some of the company’s offices, and he said that some staff are coming into the office “only two days a week.”

Earlier this week CNBC reported that CFO Ruth Porat had, in a rare company-wide memo, revealed the firm had begun other cost cutting measures including cutting back on fitness classes, staplers, tape and the frequency of laptop replacements for staff.

Google has also allegedly declined to pay the remainder of laid-off employees’ maternity and medical leaves, CNBC previously reported.