Google's Temp Workers Win Crucial Benefits, But They Will Have To Wait A Few Years

Screenshot: Google

Google’s TVC — short for Temps, Vendors, and Contractors — took home a victory today in the form of an increased minimum wage and some basic benefits. Hooray! Unfortunately, the TVCs currently working at Google probably won’t be around to see any of them.

As The Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong reported this morning, Google abruptly laid off 30+ members of its voice assistant team — folks who essentially worked to localise the assistant in different countries. According to one such worker, who spoke with Gizmodo on condition of anonymity, the team was informed there would a change in strategy, and that the company would not be honouring the remainder of their contracts.

And so, with little to lose (because again, they had effectively been shitcanned) the temps built consensus within the company, distributing a letter this morning which garnered over 900 signatures in support.

TVCs, like temps in other companies, typically do not receive healthcare or other benefits, and lose a portion of their earnings to the staffing agency that placed them at Google.

The demands of this contingent of workers were simple enough: pay out the remainder of our contracts, let full-timers acknowledge the work we did, and convert remaining TVCs at the company to actual employees. By most estimates, TVC’s make up around half of Google’s total staff.

A few hours after the letter became public, The Hill reported that Google’s vice president of people operations circulated an internal memo announcing some changes to TVC protocol—changes which a spokesperson later confirmed with Gizmodo: 12 weeks of parental leave, at least eight sick days, comprehensive healthcare, and a $21/hour minimum wage “In order to do business with Google, all companies that employ U.S. vendors and temporary staff will need to provide these things,” the spokesperson wrote, “none of which are currently mandated by US law.”

The timing leads one to suspect these positive changes to contingent worker conditions would be related to the backlash generated by this round of layoffs, but according to the spokesperson, “the wages and benefits announcement [...] has been in the works a while.”

Unfortunately, most of these updates don’t go into effect until 2020, or 2022 in the case of healthcare. The maximum amount of time TVCs can work at Google is two years. It remains an important step forward, just not one that’s likely to improve the lives of absolutely anyone temping, vending, or contracting at Google, right now.

It’s bad news too for the letter-writers, whose demands are conveniently not addressed by this change. Speaking to The Guardian, one of the soon-too-be-laid-off workers said, bluntly, “This change means nothing to us.”

Yesterday another group of Googlers — over 1,600 of them — signed a letter demanding their company remove Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James from its proposed technology ethics board over her transphobic remarks. Google has yet to reply directly to that letter either.

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