Google’s ranks of temporary workers now outnumber its full-time employees, according to a New York Times report on Tuesday.
This massive “shadow workforce” is raising questions about the way Google treats its contractors compared to its full time employees, and about whether a contracting job at Google can really serve as a stepping stone to a career at the tech giant, or is merely a clever way for Google to cut costs.
Many contractors hope to turn their part-time roles into full-time gigs, which offer better pay, equity compensation and other job benefits. But as the Times notes, the path towards full-time employment is laden with roadblocks: Temps are not allowed to attend internal all-hands meetings and company job fairs, and they don’t have access to internal job listings.
The disparity between Google’s full-timers and temps (who must wear red badges to identify themselves) is even more severe than the Times describes. As Business Insider has previously reported, Google’s two-class employee system means that even the day-to-day interactions between red-badge temps and full-timers are limited.
In April 2018, TVCs were banned from all internal chat forums running on Google Groups, three former TVC workers told Business Insider earlier this year. The company cited security concerns as the reason for locking TVCs out of the Google Groups forums, according to one TVC who worked at YouTube at the time.
The Google Groups ban, he said, had a “chilling effect” on the contractor community across Google.
‘You can only do half of your job’
Some of the contract workers told Business Insider that the exclusion from Google Groups made it impossible for them to perform their core job responsibilities. At a company such as Google, where many employees begin as TVCs and hope to impress their managers enough to get hired full time, the rule changes have become a growing cause of distress and unease.
One former Google TVC told us that he was blocked from Google Groups that were “essential” to his work and felt fortunate that his manager advocated for him to obtain the access he needed. That same manager also helped the TVC gain permission to book meeting rooms.
Another former Google TVC said she had a different experience with her manager and “wasn’t able to get access to a lot of their systems.” As a result, she said, “you can only do half of your job.”
A Google spokesperson confirmed with Business Insider on Tuesday that TVCs still had limited access to Google Groups in an effort to reduce security vulnerabilities. The spokesperson also said TVCs are provided access to the resources needed to succeed in their assignments at Google.
‘We were second-class citizens’
Equal access to information was one of the main demands of TVCs during the November employee walkouts and the subsequent letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
In the letter, TVCs wrote, in part: “We need transparency, accountability, and structural change to ensure equity for all Google workers … We want access to town hall discussions; all communications about safety, discrimination, and sexual misconduct; and a reinstatement of our access to internal forums like Google Groups.”
Other demands included better pay, high-quality healthcare, and paid vacations.
Google’s practice of hiring temps and contractors in place of full-time employees has often been criticized as the company’s way to cushion its bottom line at the expense of its workers. TVCs generally don’t receive the many perks and benefits to which full-time workers are entitled, from paid vacations and sick days to bonuses.
The former TVCs that Business Insider spoke with in January all confirmed feelings of discrimination at certain times while working for Google. From not being able to invite friends or family for lunch, to physically having to wear a red badge — which the company again maintains is for security reasons — there was an “overall feeling that we were second-class citizens,” one TVC told us.
Another said having to wear the red badge and being a TVC “almost feels like a sense of shame.”