Google Fires 28 Staff Over Israel Protest, Undertakes More Layoffs

Alphabet has reacted quickly after some staff stormed two Google offices in protest at a cloud contract with Israel, and demonstrated “completely unacceptable behaviour”.

In addition, the search engine giant has undertaken a fresh tranche of layoffs, but it did not disclosure the number of people losing their jobs, Reuters reported. It also offshored some jobs as well.

The tech industry as a whole has endured large numbers of layoffs in the past year, including Google. And CEO Sundar Pichai in January this year had warned of more job losses to come.

Image credit: Jonny Gios/Unsplash

Terminated staff

In the first case Google said Wednesday it had terminated 28 employees, after a series of protests against labour conditions and the company’s contract to provide the Israeli government with cloud computing and artificial intelligence services.

According to a CNBC report, Google said a small number of protesting employees had on Tuesday entered and disrupted work at two office locations in New York and Sunnyvale, California.

Nine Google workers had been arrested on trespassing charges after staging a sit-in at the company’s offices. The New York sit in lasted over nine hours and spanned two floors.

Some staff even reportedly entered and staged a protest in the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian.

Google alleged that the protesters had defaced its property during the protest, and even physically impeded the work of other Googlers.

“A small number of employee protesters entered and disrupted a few of our locations,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC. “Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behaviour.”

“After refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety,” the spokesperson added. “We have so far concluded individual investigations that resulted in the termination of employment for 28 employees, and will continue to investigate and take action as needed.”

“Behaviour like this has no place in our workplace and we will not tolerate it,” Google added in an internal memo. “It clearly violates multiple policies that all employees must adhere to – including our Code of Conduct and Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation, Standards of Conduct, and Workplace Concerns.”

Protester statement

However a statement was posted on Medium about the firings, entitled “Google workers with the ‘No Tech for Apartheid’ campaign.”

They alleged that “Google indiscriminately fired over two dozen workers, including those among us who did not directly participate in yesterday’s historic, bicoastal 10-hour sit-in protests.”

“This flagrant act of retaliation is a clear indication that Google values its $1.2 billion contract with the genocidal Israeli government and military more than its own workers,” the statement reads.

They alleged that Google’s claims that protesters had “defaced property” and “physically impeded the work of other Googlers” was an “excuse to avoid confronting us and our concerns directly, and attempt to justify its illegal, retaliatory firings, is a lie.”

They alleged workers who engaged “in a peaceful sit-in and refusing to leave did not damage property or threaten other workers. Instead they received an overwhelmingly positive response and shows of support.”

Staff layoffs

Meanwhile Reuters reported a spokesperson as saying on Wednesday that Google is laying off an unspecified number of employees.

The Google spokesperson reportedly said the layoffs are not company-wide and that affected employees will be able to apply for internal roles.

The spokesperson did not specify the number of employees impacted nor the teams involved.

A small percentage of the impacted roles will apparently move to hubs Google is investing in, including India, Chicago, Atlanta and Dublin.

Other media outlets have reported that the layoffs have impacted several of Google’ teams in its real estate and finance departments.

Google job losses

Google has already axed thousands of jobs over the past 14 months.

In January 2023 Alphabet had announced that it would cut 12,000 jobs worldwide, or roughly 6 percent of its workforce.

Google staff walked out in protest at the jobs cuts, and criticised the company for abruptly cutting off access to those who lost their jobs in the January 2023 redundancies.

In June 2023 it also emerged that Google was axing staff in its highly popular mapping service Waze.

In September 2023 it was reported that Google was cutting hundreds of jobs in its global recruiting team as part of a broader pullback in hiring over the next several quarters.

But the job losses continued into 2024, notably in January when Google confirmed it was laying off hundreds of employees across multiple teams.

In addition, Fitbit co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman exited the search engine giant, amid ongoing cost cutting measures.

It is also understood that hundreds at Google’s Voice Assistant unit were being let go, and a few hundred roles were also being eliminated in the hardware team responsible for Pixel, Nest and Fitbit.

Hundreds of roles in the search giant’s central engineering team were also laid off, and the majority of people in the augmented reality (AR) team were let go.

Google also confirmed that confirmed hundreds of job losses in 30,000 strong ad sales team.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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