Endless free meals. On-site gyms. Ample paid time off and regular contributions to 401(k)s. Even routine in-office massages. Google portrays itself as a company that, as Business Insider wrote in 2017, “pulls out all the stops when it comes to attracting top talent.” Behind the carefully crafted image, however, is what New York Times reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi calls a “shadow work force” of temporary employees and contract workers who don’t get access to any of the benefits and now outnumber the full-time employees.

“As of March,” Wakabayashi reports, “Google worked with roughly 121,000 temps and contractors around the world, compared with 102,000 full-time employees, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times.”

These temps, vendors and contractors may seem indistinguishable from full-time employees. They perform multiple jobs, from content moderation to human resources roles to software development, but they’re employed by staffing agencies, not Google.

Among the concerns of the contract workers, according to the ones who spoke with the Times:

Google was the employer in all but name. It decides what jobs they do, dictates where and what hours they work, and often decides if and when to fire them.

Google’s contractors are barred from company events like holiday parties and all-hands meetings. They are not permitted to look at internal job postings or attend company job fairs.

In some instances, email messages about workplace security concerns that went out to full-time staff were not shared with contract workers even though they worked in the same offices.

According to multiple temp employees, many of whom talked to the Times on condition of anonymity (because they had signed nondisclosure agreements), contractors “make less money, have different benefits plans and have no paid vacation time in the United States.”

In response to questions from the Times, Google denied that using temps and contractors was a cost-saving measure. Eileen Naughton, Google’s vice president of People Operations, told the Times that if a temp or contract worker has a problem, “we provide lots of ways to report complaints or express concerns.” She added, “We investigate, we hold individuals to account and we work to make things right for any person impacted.”

OnContracting, a site that helps people find tech contracting positions, told the Times that it “estimates that a technology company can save $100,000 a year on average per American job by using a contractor instead of a full-time employee.”

Relying on contractors and temporary workers is not unique to Google. As the Times reports, “Contingent labor accounts for 40 to 50 percent of the workers at most technology firms, according to estimates by OnContracting.”

Google is receiving more scrutiny for the practice however, after better treatment of and benefits for contract workers became a focus of an international Google walkout protesting multiple issues, including sexual harassment, that occurred in March.

“It’s creating a caste system inside companies,” Pradeep Chauhan, the head of OnContracting, told the Times.

Read the full article here.

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