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‘Locked out of the entire system,’ workers react after Google announces layoffs; Pichai says process was ‘far from random’

The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), said that executives were focusing on the economic reality for the company “and not the human reality of the fired workers.”

January 24, 2023 01:11 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:15 am IST

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. File.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. File. | Photo Credit: AP

Following the announcement that Google will be laying off 12,000 workers (about 6% of its workforce), workers shared their experience after being locked out of their systems, and with work at the company stalled after the massive job cut.

Joining a growing list of tech company to trim staff as the economic boom that the industry rode during the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, the parent company of Google, in an email had informed staff on January 20 about the cuts.

Also read | Left jobless, thousands of Indian IT workers scramble for options to stay in the U.S.

Calling them a reflection of the “rigorous review" carried out by Google of its operations., Mr. Pichai said he was “deeply sorry” for the layoffs. “Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth,” Mr. Pichai wrote. “To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.”

Reacting to the same, the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), said that executives were focusing on the economic reality for the company “and not the human reality of the fired workers.”

The AWU was started in 2021 with 226 employees signing union cards with the Communications Workers of America in the United States. Currently, the AWU claims membership of over 1,100 workers.

In a Twitter post, an account stated to be of the AWU cited the experiences of laid-off workers as well as the reaction of workers whose colleagues have been laid off. “Thousands of our colleagues were stripped of their livelihoods—without even being given the chance to say goodbye to their teammates,” it said adding that these workers will now be forced to look for jobs alongside 2,00,000 other tech workers that have been laid off over the past 14 months.

The account then went on to share “initial thoughts” of the workers on the layoff news. “I’m trying to ask questions about my severance and benefits—but I can’t even track responses from my former employer because I’m locked out of the entire system,” one worker was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, an employee at the New York office said, “No one did any real work today—we’re all in shock, and we don’t even know how to move forward with our projects after losing so many of our coworkers.”

“Other companies announce layoffs and give workers the chance to opt in if they are looking to leave the company—Google didn’t even give workers that option,” said another worker.

Later, in an internal meeting on January 23 Mr. Pichai said that the layoff process was “far from random,” as reported by Bloomberg. He also that senior leadership, in way of taking accountability, would face a significant reduction in their annual bonus this year.

As per remarks reviewed by Bloomberg, Mr. Pichai said he had consulted with the company’s founders and board in making the decision for 6% cuts.

In just the past month there have been nearly 50,000 job cuts across the technology sector. Large and small tech companies went on a hiring spree in over the past several years due to a demand for their products, software and services surged with millions of people working remotely. However, even with all of the layoffs announced in recent weeks, most tech companies are still vastly larger than they were three years ago. Some of the companies that have announced layoffs this month include, Amazon, Salesforce, Coinbase, Microsoft, Google, and Spotify.

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