- Google temps at a data centre had a $200 weekly bonus cut last month, The New York Times reports.
- Hundreds of workers pushed back via a Google workers’ union, per The Times.
- The workers had their bonuses reinstated two days later, the report said.
Google temps working at a data center in Iowa fought against a bonus cut and won, The New York Times reports.
The temps were working as contractors for Google via a firm called Modis. The Times reported that the roughly 250 workers were promised a $200 weekly bonus in August for every full week they worked until the end of the year.
But staff stopped receiving these bonuses in October, despite working the full 40-hour weeks needed to qualify, according to the report. Modis sent an email to employees saying that the bonuses had raised a red flag for managers at Google and that the program was being put on hold, The Times reported.
On October 27, Modis told staff the program had been terminated, and that they would not receive back pay, per the report.
The Times reported the Alphabet Workers Union — which was first formed in January of this year — organized a push back. Per The Times, workers sent management more than 100 messages about the bonus cut, and 130 workers organized a video call to discuss further action, including drafting a letter and even potentially stopping work.
On Friday, October 29, Modis announced the program would restart, per The Times. Workers would receive back pay and the scheme would last until December 19, a Modis manager said, per The Times.
It’s not entirely clear whether the union effort caused the u-turn. In a statement to The New York Times, Google said a “billing error and miscommunication” had stopped the bonus scheme. Modis did not respond when contacted by The Times for comment.
Google and Modis did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment.
“The union definitely strengthened people’s resolve to standing up for the fight,” Ned McNally, a union member and data center technician at the facility, told The Times.
In a statement on Twitter, the Alphabet workers union said it wasn’t just Modis at fault. “@Google’s two-tiered employment system is designed to exploit workers,” it said.
Google has come under fire before over how it treats its so-called “shadow workforce” of contractors, which is reportedly larger than its salaried employee workforce.
The Times and The Guardian reported in September the tech giant had illegally underpaid thousands of temporary workers, and that in one instance a Google manager had suggested firing seven contract workers rather than give them benefits.