Google Shifts Rules For Contract Firms Amidst Labour Battle

Google has loosened requirements around the benefits its contracting firms provide for their employees, amidst a battle with regulators over how much responsibility it should assume for contingent workers.

The 2019 policy required contracting firms pay their employees at least $15 (£12) an hour and provide benefits such as health insurance.

Google has now eliminated that policy and made other changes such as limiting access by temporary workers and vendors to its internal systems, the firm said.

It said the moves were designed to comply with US and international labor regulations related to contingent workers.

Image credit: Pawel Czerwinski/Unsplash

Labour battle

“These updates bring us in line with other large companies and simply clarify that Google is not, and has never been, the employer of our suppliers’ employees,” a Google spokesperson said.

In January the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) upheld an earlier ruling that Google had illegally refused to bargain with a group of unionised Texas-based contract workers for YouTube Music who went on strike in February 2022 over Google’s policies forcing them to return to the office.

The union for the group of more than 40 argued that many had been hired to work remotely for as little as $19 per hour and that adding commute costs would represent an unsustainable burden.

Google refused to negotiate with the workers, who were employees of supplier Cognizant, and later laid them off.

The firm said contracts with suppliers “routinely end on their natural expiry date”.

‘Joint employer’

But the NLRB said that because Google controlled many aspects of the contractors’ work, it must be considered their joint employer and must engage in negotiations with their union.

The labor board said the 2019 policy showed that Google exerted control over the contractors, even though it did not employ them.

Google is appealing the decision.

The NLRB brought in a rule last year that companies with indirect control over working conditions must be considered the “joint employer” of contract workers, but in March a federal judge barred the rule from taking effect.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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