Google workers in Japan have joined a labor union in response to planned layoffs

Dozens of Google Japan employees have organized under the Tokyo Managers’ Union. It’s the first labor union at Google Japan, according to Meiji University Assistant Professor Ken Yamazaki, who also posted a copy of the group’s statements from a press conference. Apparently, the employees chose to organize out of fear that they could be abruptly laid off, especially since some of them are in Japan on work visas. 

Their concerns stemmed from the tech giant’s announcement back in January that it’s cutting 12,000 jobs — that’s six percent of the company’s overall workforce — around the world. They said their counterparts in the US were terminated with just an email sent in the middle of the night, and that the Japanese office’s employees were left anxiously awaiting for the ax to fall over the past few weeks. The workers said they joined a labor union in response to that announcement and to news about the fate of the company’s employees in other countries. 

For a dismissal to be legal in Japan, a company has to prove that it has reasonable grounds to terminate an employee. However, some companies terminate employees without good reason by claiming to have problems with the worker. The group is hoping that joining a union would protect them from sudden termination. In the US, one of the divisions most affected by the job cuts was the company’s Area 120 in-house incubator, which works on experimental apps and products. The division used to develop 20 projects simultaneously, but that’s now down to three after most people in the team lost their jobs.

When Google announced it was going to let 12,000 workers go, Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said he was “deeply sorry” and that he takes “full responsibility for the decisions that led [the company] here.” He admitted that the tech giant went on a hiring spree over the last few years, but that Google “hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.” According to the company’s latest earnings report, its revenue for the fourth quarter of 2022 grew one percent from the year before, but its quarterly net income was down 34 percent year-over-year. 

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