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A Google Maps contract worker who has to return to his Washington office recently circulated a petition to continue working at home because he couldn’t afford to travel.

This issue affects more than 200 workers employed by the outsourcing company Cognizant Technology Solutions, which hired them to work in Bothell’s office from June 6th to 5th a week. Workers play an important role in updating routes and destinations on Google Maps. , A service used by more than 1 billion people a month.

About 60 percent of the 200 workers signed the petition. They demanded that managers suspend their return-to-work schedules and address employee financial, health, and childcare concerns first.

“Gas is currently about $ 5 per gallon, and due to Bothell’s low wages and high housing costs, many of us in the office can’t afford to live near the office,” wrote a Cognizant employee. I am. The petition was endorsed by Google’s parent company Alphabet and its suppliers, the Alphabet Workers Union, which employs more than 900 members.

Google’s full-time employees working in the office were invited three days a week. In an interview, Cognizant employees asked for the same flexibility. After June 6th, you will not be able to access the telecommuting system.

The policy emphasizes the gap between Google’s direct employees and contractors. Google spends its time on Google projects, but officially estimates that it has well over 100,000 temporary workers, vendors, and contractors working for other companies. Google does not disclose the number.

In a statement, Cognizant states that the return-to-work policy depends on the type of work employees do and the needs of their customers. “Employee health and safety remain a top priority, and we need to immunize our employees to return to our US office,” Cognizant Communications Director Jeff De Marrais wrote in an email.

In a statement, Google spokeswoman Courtney Mencini said the health of her community, including contract workers, was a company priority. She said Google had notified suppliers in Washington state 90 days in advance that workers would return to their offices, and those suppliers had decided how to implement that policy.

credit…The New York Times Christie Hem Crook

Washington contractors say most of them earn between $ 16 and $ 28 an hour, much less than regular full-time Google employees. Cognizant officials declined requests for gas cards and other monetary compensation. They said Google’s private bus service (a popular perk in Silicon Valley) to assist with travel is not offered.

Card operator Tyler Brown, hired during the pandemic, gasns $ 280 of his biweekly salary of $ 1,000 to drive the 2006 Toyota Sienna into an office 73 miles from his home in Olympia, Washington. I estimate that I need to spend it.

“I’m paid $ 19 an hour,” Brown said. “It doesn’t make sense for me to keep doing it.” He will resign if the return plan continues.

Geodata data specialist William Houser also said he was wary of long and costly journeys. His 100-mile daily round trip from Puyallup, Washington takes a total of over four hours. It went live in April 2021, 13 months after Google closed its office.

Cognizant employees have expressed other concerns. They said the manager gave them a 40-day notice to work directly, not the promised minimum of 60 days. This means less time to find or move to day care. And they are afraid to get Covid-19 in the office.

This is of particular concern to Shelby Hunter, a political trainer who has had four lung surgeries. He said his boss told him that his plans to return to the office did not include a medical exemption.

“I like to know that the work I do makes a difference,” said Hunter. “I just feel despised.”

Having expanded its office footprint throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Google has brought 164,000 employees back to campus with benefits such as free electric scooters and concerts by pop star Rizzo. Last year, the search giant approved 85% of employee requests to work remotely or move to another location.