Google faces calls to compensate thousands of underpaid temp workers after 'massive moral failing' uncovered

Google faces calls to compensate thousands of underpaid temp workers after 'massive moral failing' uncovered
Google's logo seen at its Mountain View campus. Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Google faces calls to compensate thousands of temporary workers it has historically underpaid.
  • More than 140 Google employees signed a petition calling the situation a 'massive moral failing.'
  • Google said it was committed to undertaking a 'thorough review' of the situation.

Google employees are calling on the tech giant to compensate thousands of its temporary workers, after reports that the company had illegally underpaid them.

On Friday, The New York Times and The Guardian reported Google had violated pay-parity laws in several countries, particularly in Europe and Asia, where companies are required to pay equitable wages to full-time and temporary workers who perform similar workplace duties, a rule that does not exist in the US.

Google's compliance department were reported to have discovered the mistake in May 2019, but chose not to immediately compensate the underpaid temporary staff, and instead only corrected rates for new employees in the hopes of avoiding legal, financial, and reputational damage.

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Google's temporary and contract workers reportedly outnumber its force of full-time employees, creating a "shadow workforce" that has attempted unionizing in recent years to fight for fair wages and benefits, Insider's Katie Canales reported.

The company employs around 6,000 TVCs (temps, vendors, and contractors) around the world, many of whom, The Guardian, are based in the UK, Ireland, India, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Poland - all of which enforce local pay-parity laws.


By Wednesday night, more than 140 Google employees had signed a petition calling on the company to pay these TVCs (temps, vendors, and contractors) "the full wages they are legally entitled to and have earned," and called on the company to consider paying US temp workers similar rates, irrespective of legislation.

The petition was organized by Alphabet Workers' Union, a pressure group formed in January. The petition states the relative cost of compensating TVCs would be "an insignificant amount considering Google's trillion dollar valuation," and that leadership had "decided to prioritize avoiding negative press over improving wages and thus, quality of life, for thousands of their workers."

"For much of Google's workforce, 'Don't be evil' is a smokescreen," it continues.

"It's a way to reap the financial rewards of unquestioning public faith, by assuring investors, users and government entities that Google is trustworthy and friendly - while successfully underpaying and mistreating the majority of their workers."

Shortly after the story broke on Friday, Google's chief compliance officer Spyros Karetsos wrote in a blog post that the pay-parity process had "not been handled consistent with the high standards to which we hold ourselves as a company."


Karetsos said the company was undergoing a "thorough review" of the situation, and that it was "committed to identifying and addressing any pay discrepancies that the team has not already addressed."

Insider approached Google for comment.

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