The U.S. National Labour Relations Board issued a complaint this week against HCL America that accuses the Google contractor of violating its employees’ labour rights through a bevy of union-busting tactics. The complaint alleges that the company, a subsidiary of the India-based contracting titan HCL Technologies, illegally pressured its Pittsburgh workforce not to unionise and retaliated against their efforts by partially shifting their jobs overseas.
Last fall, a group of roughly 80 Google contractors became among the first in the company’s history to unionize after voting to become affiliated with North America’s largest industrial union, United Steelworkers. Following the vote, the labour board alleges that HCL began siphoning off the team’s responsibilities, which included data analysis and machine learning training under a contract with Google, to its employees in Poland.
“Most egregiously, HCL has been eroding its Pittsburgh workforce by brazenly moving work done here to its facility in Krakow, Poland, to retaliate against workers for exercising their right to choose union representation,” Joshua Borden, who serves on the union’s negotiating committee, said in a press release. “Management would rather break the law than negotiate in good faith for a fair contract.”
HCL and Google did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment. The complaint claims that HCL higher-ups violated federal labour laws by threatening to withhold wages and promotions if contractors at Google’s Bakery Square headquarters continued to push for unionization. Management also promised to come down on rule violations more strictly if a union was formed, according to the labour board.
The company allegedly began limiting job training opportunities and instituting periodic “quick check” quizzes for workers in retaliation, per the New York Times. In the year since the vote, employees say more than a dozen positions that belonged to the initial bargaining unit have been eliminated.
“Sending work out of the country during a pandemic was especially kind of an unconscionable action,” Borden said in the Times’ report. “They were trying to take jobs away from us in retaliation for organising to have a fair workplace.”
While the complaint doesn’t directly accuse Google in the matter, the tech giant has come under fire in recent years for its covert partnerships with union-busting firms and seemingly retaliatory firings of employees involved in union campaigns. Other Silicon Valley big wigs such as Microsoft and Amazon have aggressively pushed against labour organisation efforts as well, making HCL’s successful effort last fall even more historic.
The NLRB currently has a hearing scheduled before an administrative law judge in February. If the judge rules in favour of the labour board, HCL will likely be compelled to undo any changes it made without the union’s input and bargain with union reps over re-implementing them.