Google staff stage London office walkouts in layoffs protest

 workers gathered for a protest staged by Unite the union outside the Google headquarters in Kings Cross, London.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Google employees staged a walkout at the tech giant’s London office on Wednesday in protest of planned job cuts.

The walkout, organised by the Unite trade union, follows Google’s January announcement that it plans to lay off around 12,000 workers across its global operations.

Google employs more than 5,000 staff in the UK, and it's expected that a significant portion of this workforce could be impacted by the cuts.

Unite, which is the biggest union at Google and represents hundreds of UK staff, alleges that senior management have repeatedly “ignored most of the concerns put to them by elected Unite workplace representatives”.

The trade union said that the company is holding one-to-one consultations with workers and “refusing to allow union representatives to be present” during meetings.

Google staff protest outside London Kings Cross office

Protesters hold placards with 'Don't be evil' messages to Google during the demonstration (Image credit: Getty Images)

“Google has gone so far as to refuse to hear grievances on the redundancy process put forward by individuals,” the union said in a statement ahead of the walkout.

“This is because formally acknowledging such grievances would give individuals the right to have a union representative attend their consultation.”

Footage circulated on social media by Unite shows dozens of workers protesting outside Google’s London office sites.

Statements from anonymous workers shared with Unite were read out by union representatives. One anonymous staffer suggested that the company has reneged on its ‘don’t be evil’ motto by imposing redundancies.

“Senior leadership has proven they intend to ignore the statements made by our founders, and just like any other conventional company, only care about the whims of activist investors and share price.”

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Unite regional officer Matt Whaley equated Google’s recent conduct to ‘union busting’ and claimed that Matt Brittin, president at Google Europe and Google Africa had refused to engage with the union.

“If he’s listening in there, I have a message for Mr Matt Brittin, because I’d rather not be out here with a group of people protesting, I’d rather be talking to employers about how we can make things better,” Whaley said.

“I wrote to him twice. On both occasions, Mr Brittin wrote back to me saying ‘we don’t recognise unions and we’re not talking to you’,” he added.


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The London protest follows a similar kickback from European staff over Google job cuts in recent weeks. Senior management has been engaged in consultations over redundancies at a host of European sites.

Workers at Google’s Zurich office walked out last month amid claims that senior management had refused to consider proposals to reduce job cuts in the country.

Widespread job cuts across the global tech industry in recent months have thrust the topic of unionisation into the spotlight, with calls for tech industry workers to become more actively engaged with unions.

“As we said on January 20, we’ve made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce by approximately 12,000 roles globally," a Google spokesperson told IT Pro.

"We know this is a very challenging time for our employees. In the UK, we have been constructively engaging and listening to our employees through numerous meetings, and are working hard to bring them clarity and share updates as soon as we can in adherence with all UK processes and legal requirements.”

Ross Kelly

Ross Kelly is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research. 

In his spare time, Ross enjoys cycling, walking and is an avid reader of history and non-fiction.

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