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Don't Be Evil, a gaggle of Googlers tell CEO Pichai amid mega layoffs

Open letter to top brass signed by 1,400+ staff offers 5-point plan to improve redundancy process

More than 1,400 Alphabet staffers have signed an open letter urging CEO Sundar Pichai to reconsider aspects of the current redundancy process and remember the last line of its code of conduct: "Don't Be Evil."

Google parent Alphabet announced in January that 12,000 heads – 6 percent of the workforce – would roll because it had recruited too quickly during the earlier years of the pandemic and faced a "different economic reality" in 2023. The job cuts were across "product areas, functions, levels and regions."

Now a collection of unions have come together to press management on issues. The letter states: "The impacts of Alphabet's decision to reduce its workforce are global. Nowhere have workers' voice adequately been considered, and we know that as workers we are stronger together than alone. We are thus coming across the world to be heard."

It was undersigned by unions including Unite and the Communications Workers Union in the UK, Syndicom in Switzerland, the Financial Services Union in Ireland and the Alphabet Workers Union which is organizing in North America and beyond.

Published on Friday, the missive currently has 1,431 signatures, which is a drop in the ocean when compared to the 186,000 plus staff that were on Alphabet's payroll when the cuts were confirmed.

The letter homes in on five points that the group thinks the biz should reassess, the first being a request to pause all new hires during the redundancy process. "First ask for voluntary redundancies and voluntary working time reduction before compulsory layoffs. Allow for employee 'swaps' to further avoid compulsory redundancies."

Equally, the organization should give priority to rehire to any employees that got the chop. "Prioritize internal transfer options, prioritized access to jobs without the need to re-interview and agree to a fair severance package."

Staff were previously offered a minimum 60 days notice period, a severance package starting at 16 weeks, they were told all bonuses and holiday leave would be paid and given months worth of healthcare benefits in US.

However, according to CNBC, Google staff that were on maternity or medical leave when the redundancies were announced might not get paid for the time off they have remaining. The letter urges Alphabet to "respect scheduled leaves and do not give notice until the leave is finished."

Another point raised by the missive to Pichai pertains to protecting colleagues from countries with "active conflicts or humanitarian crisis."

"Do not terminate employment when it would adversely affect visas, which could require workers to return to unsafe or unstable countries. Provide extra support to these and workers at risk of residence permit loss: help with job searches — internal and external — and provide adequate gardening leave," the letter urges.

The letter also asks Alphabet to make certain there are "no discriminatory effects based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientations, racial or ethnic identity, caste, veteran status, religion, and disability" involved in the redundancy selection process.

This is a moot point for some, as the pace of exits differs around the globe, depending on the strength of local employment laws, and many employees in the US may already have left or be preparing to leave.

Just last week, 200 Alphabet staff in Switzerland protested over job cuts. Syndicom told Reuters that employees are "bothered by the non-transparent nature of the layoffs, and are especially disappointed that Google is laying off workers at a time when the company is making billions in profit."

Alphabet reported net income of $59.97 billion in calendar 2022, but this was down on the $76 billion generated in the prior year, and so some shareholders are agitating for change, and want Alphabet to go even further. Still, as we've said before, Alphabet's profits are bigger than most tech vendors' revenues.

The open letter to Pichai signed off by saying: "We call on you and Alphabet more broadly to make these critical public commitments. Our company has long touted its commitment to doing right by its users and workers, and these commitments will show Alphabet adhering to the final line of its Code of Conduct: Don't Be Evil."

We've asked Alphabet to comment. ®

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