YouTube Contractors Ready to Strike as Return to Office Hits Post-Pandemic High
Working from home has been one of the benefits of the Covid-19 stay-at-home orders and most companies have been able to show their jobs can be done entirely or mostly remotely. But Big Tech’s push to return to work does not come without resistance, like axios reports this morning that contractors are on YouTube ready to strike about having to return to the office.
The 43 contractors work for YouTube Music in Texas and are preparing to go on strike this afternoon as they are forced to return to the company’s Austin office this Monday, though some of those contractors were previously fully remote. The contractors are employed by Cognizant, and Axios reports they were sent a return-to-work notification in November – after they applied for union recognition. Cognizant denied this claim in an email with Gizmodo, claiming that the contractors have already been informed December 2021 they would return to the office. Cognizant also told Gizmodo that according to the contract these employees signed, these positions should always be in office.
“Cognizant respects the right of our employees to disagree with our policies and to lawfully protest against them. However, it is disappointing that some of our employees have chosen to remove a return-to-office policy that has been repeatedly communicated to them since December 2021,” Cognizant wrote to Gizmodo. “Staff working on this project accepted their employment with the understanding that they would accept an office position and that the team would work together at a physical location in Austin.”
“Our hope is that we can actually have a dialogue where we’re being listened to,” said Cognizant/YouTube contributor Neil Gossell, as quoted in Axios.
YouTube did not comment on the strike.
One of the main sticking points for Cognizant’s contractors is pay. The contractors say their wages start at $19 an hour and claim that’s not enough income to support a living in Austin, where their office is located. About 25% of contractors currently live in Austin, but some say they have more than one job to make ends meet. According to Axios, most of these contractors were hired during the pandemic and have always been remote workers.
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At the same time, office occupancy has reached a post-pandemic peak of 50.4%. to Axios, citing a report by Kastle Systems. While the return-to-office trend has steadily increased since July 2021, the number appears to have plateaued since September, suggesting a new (old) reality for the corporate world. Tech giants like Tesla, Apple and Google have been forcing their employees to return to the office in the wake of the pandemic for at least a year, but some employees continue to push back.
Update Feb 3 2:40pm EST: This article was updated to include a comment from Cognizant, who also said that the claims cited by Axios were false. YouTube didn’t have a comment to share with Gizmodo.
https://gizmodo.com/youtube-return-to-office-google-strike-remote-work-1850069549 YouTube Contractors Ready to Strike as Return to Office Hits Post-Pandemic High