February 5, 2023

Google Maps contract employees who need to return to offices in Washington state recently circulated a petition to continue working from home because some cannot afford commuting, presenting another challenge to Google’s plans to replenish offices and restore campus life.

The issue affects more than 200 employees employed by outsourcing firm Cognizant Technology Solutions, which asked them to work five days a week at Bothell’s offices starting June 6.These employees play an important role in updating routes and destinations on Google Maps, one being surpassed billion person a month.

About 60 percent of the 200 workers signed the petition. They asked managers to suspend the return-to-office schedule and address employees’ financial, health and childcare concerns first.

“With gas prices around $5 a gallon right now, many people in our office can’t afford to live near the office due to our low wages and high housing costs in Bothell,” Cognizant employees wrote. The petition The book is backed by the Alphabet workers union, which has more than 900 members employed by Google parent Alphabet and its suppliers.

Full-time Googlers with office jobs are told to come to work three days a week. In interviews, Cognizant employees called for the same flexibility. Starting June 6, they will no longer be able to access work systems from home.

These policies highlight the differences between Google’s direct employees and contractors. Google is estimated to have more than 100,000 temps, suppliers and contractors who spend their time on Google projects but officially work for other companies. Google did not disclose this number.

In a statement, Cognizant said its return-to-office policy depends on the type of work employees do and the needs of customers. “The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority, and we require our employees to be vaccinated before returning to our U.S. offices,” Jeff DeMarrais, Cognizant’s chief communications officer, wrote in an email.

In a statement, Google spokeswoman Courtenay Mencini said the health of the community, including contract workers, is the company’s top priority. She said Google gave its suppliers in Washington state 90 days’ notice to return to the office, and those suppliers decided how to enforce the policy.

Contractors in Washington say most of them earn between $16 and $28 an hour, well below the typical full-time Google employee. Cognizant managers denied their demands for gas cards or other financial compensation. They say they don’t get Google’s private bus service — a popular perk in Silicon Valley — to ease their commute.

Tyler Brown, a map operator hired during the pandemic, estimates he will have to spend $280 of his $1,000 biweekly salary on gas to drive his 2006 Toyota Sienna 73 out of his home in Olympia, Wash. Miles office.

“My hourly rate is $19,” Mr. Brown said. “It doesn’t make sense for me to continue doing this work”. He plans to resign if the reinstatement plan goes ahead.

Geospatial data expert William Houser also said he was wary of long and expensive commutes. He commutes 100 miles a day from Puyallup, Washington, a total of more than four hours. He started the job in April 2021, 13 months after Google closed its offices.

Cognizant employees expressed other concerns. They said managers had given them 40 days’ notice to go to work in person, instead of the promised minimum of 60 days. That means less time looking for child care or moving. They are afraid of catching Covid-19 in the office.

That’s a particular concern for Shelby Hunter, a policy trainer who has performed four lung surgeries. He said his boss told him there was no medical exemption for the plan to return to the office.

“I like to know that the work I do makes a difference,” Mr Hunter said. “It felt like I was being disrespected.”

Google has expanded its office footprint during the coronavirus pandemic, using perks like free electric scooters and a concert by pop star Lizzo to lure 164,000 employees back to campus. Last year, the search giant approved 85 percent of employee requests to work remotely or move to a different location.

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