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Google Reportedly Backs Down on Office Demands as Contractors Threaten to Strike

Google Maps contractors were given a 90-day extension on return to the office timeline.

Phone with Google Maps logo on map of the United States.
Google is experiencing pushback over return to office plans.
Angela Lang/CNET

Return to office remains a contentious issue in Silicon Valley and a group of Google contractors are pushing back.

Google Maps contractors were told they had to return to office on June 6, but received a 90-day extension three hours after telling management they were going on strike, according to a tweet Thursday by the Alphabet Workers Union. The 200-plus contractors, working for IT consulting company Cognizant Technology Solutions, say that the current return to office demands by Google are unsafe, according to the AWU.

Google, Cognizant and the AWU didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The contractors, who are paid between $16-28 an hour, were attempting to negotiate with management on flexible RTO plans but were being ignored, according to the AWU. A petition, signed by 60% of workers, demanded that managers suspend the five-day RTO demand until travel costs, health and child care concerns were addressed, according to a report form The New York Times last month. Google employees have been told to come into work three days a week by comparison. Contractors cited high fuel costs as many live further away due to the high cost of housing in Bothell, Washington, a city 20 miles north of Seattle.

The differing RTO demands between full-time workers and contractors show the imbalance between the company's workforce. Contractors make up more than half of Google's 200-thousand-plus workforce, according to a 2019 New York Times report.

Return to office demands highlight the push-pull between capital and labor in Silicon Valley. Apple has pushed its RTO plans back due to rising Covid-19 cases and have proposed a three-day in-office schedule. Meta, parent to Facebook, has given employees greater flexibility to work from home, potentially as a means of preventing people from leaving the company. Elon Musk has reportedly told Tesla employees that remote work is over and that workers must be in office a minimum of 40-hours per week.