Google’s workforce in Europe will soon have representation by European Works Councils (EWCs) after 153 employees from 11 offices advocated for one, according to a Bloomberg report on Thursday (March 19).
The workers appealed to management by writing letters asking for the establishment of an EWC, three sources told Bloomberg. Google is now starting the process and will meet with employees about its breadth, the sources said.
EWCs represent the interests of employees of multinational companies, giving them the right to consult with management about any issues that could affect their employment. If enough employees ask for a council, the EU mandates that the company complies.
Employees from over 35 Google offices across Europe are expected to participate in the council, holding meetings a few times a year in Dublin, a source said.
A Google spokeswoman said the firm “always encouraged constructive and open dialog with Googlers, and we always will.”
Criticisms by Google’s employees have been ongoing for the past 24 months. Complaints centered on polemical issues like military contracts, search engine censorship and payoffs related to alleged sexual harassment.
“The point of the works council is to be the voice of the employees — to express concerns and to find better solutions,” said Gabriel Kerneis, a Google software engineer in Paris who advocated for the council. “We hope that it will create a fairer process.”
There is a works council in place in Paris, as mandated by France. Google’s Zurich location is also working on getting a council, a source told Bloomberg.
“We didn’t know what would happen, but there’s not been any blowback so far, which has been great,” said Hannah Pascal, a senior software engineer at Google who is based in London and helped establish the council. “These issues that are coming up — complaining about retaliation, or taking on dodgy contracts — we hope the council is going to allow us to have more of an eye-level discussion with management about them.”
U.K. lawmakers are reportedly introducing a digital services tax of as much as 2 percent of revenues tied to business activities in the country. The government has said the tax is aimed at “large multi-national enterprises with revenue derived from the provision of a social media service, a search engine or an online marketplace to U.K. users.” That’s a roster that includes Google, Amazon and Facebook.