‘White-collar sweatshop’: Google Assistant contractors slam-tech giant

connectVideoGoogle employees stage a walkout

Google employees protest against the ‘corporate culture.’ Jeff Paul has the story.

Google’s use of artificial intelligence to power many of its products, including the Google Assistant, awe and praise.

Although the Assistant can book a reservation in the restaurant and translate live conversations in two dozen languages, a group of contractors toil behind the scenes to build the huge data sets needed to power the technology.

According to a new report in The Guardian, which contractors — part of a much larger group of more than 100,000 temps, vendors and contractors at Google, are busy at work, unpaid overtime, and often feel like second-class citizens at the tech giant.

“It is smoke and mirrors if there is something,” a current Google employee told the British news channels. “Artificial intelligence is not artificial; it is the human beings who do the work.”


The group of Google employees who spoke with The Guardian’s work on Pygmalion, that is the team that ensures the linguistic data sets that power Assistant and let him understand so many different languages. The employees expect that their concerns have been raised internally but ultimately ignored and they described Google total two-tier system of employees as “corrosive,” “highly problematic” and “tolerant of exploitation.”

According to The Guardian, the Pygmalion team now has 40 to 50 full-time Googlers and approximately 200 temporary employees through agencies.

“It’s like a white-collar sweatshop,” a current Google employee said. “If it’s not illegal, it certainly is exploitation. It is the point where I don’t use the Google Assistant, because I know how it is made, and I can not support.”

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the keynote of Google I/O conference in Mountain View, Calif., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The British newspaper reports that all of the contractors in this team have at least a Bachelor’s degree in linguistics, while many of his master’s degrees and some have doctorates. Competition between them was fierce, the sources claim, because she wanted to eventually work full time for Google.

Within that dynamic, contractors often worked unpaid overtime for the tech giant, potentially running afoul of the labor laws. However, a source at Google are familiar with this subject, has said that temporary workers and suppliers are not on the test run for full-time work and that of their Google employee, supervisors are trained to make that clear.


“The 40-hour thing was just not respected”, a former partner, linguist, told The Guardian. “It was clear to us that we are never to log more than 40 hours, but we were never told not to work more than 40 hours.”

“The work that they assign often takes more than 8 hours,” she added. “Every week you fill in a grid. The one person the one time it did submit overtime, and they were punished. No penalty, but definitely told not to work overtime.”CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APP

A person familiar with the matter, Google said temporary and contractual employees have access to the same hotline in terms of reporting concerns that they have about the working conditions. In addition, the search giant is also in the midst of probing a report of a possible violation of the overtime policy that Google was informed of in February, depending on the source.

Google agency workers, contractors and suppliers have been demanding a better pay, more respect and access to some of the luxury perks available for full-timers since last year. The company is known to pay full-timers have a median salary of more than $240,000, while temps and contractors are paid much less than that.

A Googe spokesperson provided Fox News with the following statement of Eileen Naughton, VP of People Operations: “Our policy is clear that all the temporary workers must be paid for overtime. If we find that someone is not well paid, we ensure that they are compensated and take appropriate action against Google employee who violates this policy.”

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular