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Complaints of sexism Google staff in Zurich join global walkout

Google employees

Google employees stand in front of the Google offices in Zurich on Thursday

(Keystone)

Thousands of Google employees and contractors in Asia, the United States and Europe – including in Zurich – have staged brief walkouts amid complaints of sexism, racism and unchecked executive power in their workplace. 

“This is Google. We solve the toughest problems here. We all know that the status quo is unacceptable and if there is any company who can solve this, I think it’s Google,” said Thomas Kneeland, a software engineer at Google in New York City. 

The demonstrations on Thursday follow a New York Times reportexternal link last week that said Google in 2014 gave a $90 million (CHF90 million) exit package to Andy Rubin after the then-senior vice president was accused of sexual harassment. Rubin denied the allegation in the story. Google did not dispute the report. 

The report energised a months-long movement inside Google to increase diversity and improve treatment of women and minorities. 

In a statement late on Wednesday, the organisers called on Google parent Alphabet to add an employee representative to its board of directors and internally share pay-equity data. They also asked for changes to Google’s human resources practices intended to make bringing harassment claims a fairer process. 

‘Constructive ideas’ 

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in a statement that “employees have raised constructive ideas” and that the company was “taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action”. 

The dissatisfaction among Alphabet’s 94,000 employees and tens of thousands more contractors has not noticeably affected company shares. But employees expect Alphabet to face recruiting and retention challenges if their concerns go unaddressed. 

Google opened its offices in the Zurich Sihlpost building in January 2017. Up to 5,000 people will eventually work in the offices by 2020, Google has said. With more than 2,000 employees from 75 countries, Zurich is already the largest Google development centre outside the US. The teams along the Limmat River work on products like Google Search, Google Maps, Google Calendar, YouTube and Gmail.

Reuters/swissinfo.ch/ts

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