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 Association. It is Google Japan’s first labor union, according to Meiji University assistant professor Ken Yamazaki, who also posted a transcript of the group’s press conference statements. Apparently, the workers chose to organize out of fear that they could be abruptly fired, especially since some of them are in Japan on work visas.

Their concerns stemmed from the tech giant’s announcement in January that it was cutting 12,000 jobs – or 6% of the company’s total workforce – worldwide. They said their US counterparts were terminated in an email sent overnight and that staff in the Japanese office had been anxiously waiting for the ax to fall in recent weeks. Workers said they joined a labor union in response to that announcement and to news about the fate of the company’s workers in other countries.

For a dismissal to be legal in Japan, a company must prove that it has valid reasons to fire an employee. However, some companies fire employees without good reason claiming that they have problems with the employee. The group hopes joining a union will protect them from sudden termination. In the US, one of the divisions most affected by the job cuts was the company’s in-house Area 120 incubator, which works on experimental applications and products. The department was developing 20 projects at one time, but is now down to three after most people on the team lost their jobs.

When Google announced it was going to let 12,000 workers go, CEO Sundar Pichai said he was “deeply sorry” and that he took “full responsibility for the decisions that got (the company) here.” He admitted that the tech giant has gone on a hiring spree in recent years, but that Google “hired for a different economic reality than we face today.” According to the company’s latest earnings report, its revenue for the fourth quarter of 2022 was up one percent from a year earlier, but quarterly net profit was down 34 percent year over year.

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