Google’s European workforce – including workers in Switzerland and the UK – will soon be covered by the first-ever European Works Council (EWC) agreement that will mean employees have the right to be informed and consulted on decisions that affect their interests.
The new agreement, signed this week, is critically important as the tech giant rolls out layoffs across Europe without adequate notice or input from employees.
This global workforce reduction programme has partly contributed to an accelerated growth in union membership especially in the UK, Ireland and Switzerland, the three largest European country operations for Google.
The agreement establishes the first EWC at the company. EWCs represent employees of a company that are based in Europe. Through these councils, companies must share information and consult with worker representatives. They allow worker representatives to be consulted in decisions that could affect employment or working conditions at European level. EWCs are a legal requirement for companies operating in two or more member states of the European Union, if they are initiated by employees.
Agreements that establish works councils are negotiated by a Special Negotiating Body (SNB), made up of worker representatives from the different countries of the European operation. The Google worker representatives in the SNB have been assisted by Unite the Union’s expert for EWCs, Jonathan Hayward. Hayward has supported the SNB in negotiations with the company for over three years, and Unite has been helping Google workers organize.
The UK has one of the largest workforces across Europe. Exceptionally, Google employees on the SNB have managed to negotiate the inclusion of the UK and Switzerland, two European countries that are not part of the European Union.
“A significant breakthrough was achieved when we got an agreement with the Google management team to include workers from the UK and Switzerland, as well as many other significant improvements to the agreement,” said Unite’s Hayward.
Google workers will vote for their EWC representatives in the next 6 months. Immediately after the elections, the EWC will be operational.
“UNI will continue to support unions as they organize and push for collective agreements nationally, but this agreement is a big step towards having a worker voice on a European level,” said UNI Europa’s Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig.
UNI Global Union has long supported cross border organizing of tech workers – including Google workers – in Europe and around the world. With this new start for an EWC, unions think ‘Googlers getting organized’ is a search phrase that will grow in popularity.
Unions representing Google workers see this as a major development in the tech sector, as companies of Google’s size and significance and influence affect the world of work generally.
Unite, through its own digital and tech workers activists and dedicated officers, is determined to keep the union in the forefront of the digital economy.