[nexa] Coronavirus divides tech workers into the 'worthy' and 'unworthy' sick | Technology | The Guardian

Alberto Cammozzo ac+nexa at zeromx.net
Fri Mar 13 07:46:23 CET 2020


<https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/12/coronavirus-divides-tech-workers-into-the-worthy-and-unworthy-sick>


When Josh Borden arrived for work at the Google offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday morning, it felt like arriving in a “ghost town”. The parking lot was deserted, there was no breakfast being served in the cafeteria, and the nap rooms were tagged with signs announcing their closure “as a precaution given the Covid-19 situation”. “The office is so empty,” he told me. “Even more so than when the Googlers have their ski trip.”

The day before, Google had asked all its North American employees to begin working from home due to the coronavirus – a policy that has since been expanded to the rest of its global workforce. But Borden, a triage analyst who has worked for Google for about four years, is one of the approximately 135,000 people who make up Google’s “extended workforce”: temps and subcontractors who perform work for, but are not technically employed by, the $830bn company. And though Borden and his co-workers perform computer-based tasks that could just as easily be completed from home as those of other technical workers, Google does not allow them to access their work from home.

“The FTEs [full-time employees] almost all seem to be heeding the recommendation to work from home, while we are sitting here in the Petri dish, with the choice of not getting paid, or maybe getting sick and then putting our family and friends at risk too,” Borden said. “I’ve heard from multiple people that they feel like we’ve been forgotten and abandoned – and that our health and safety is clearly less important than the Googlers’.

“Our second-class status now has literal health implications,” he added.

In many ways, the technology industry has been ahead of the curve in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook and Google were quick off the mark in cancelling conferences, and the industry has for the most part adapted quickly to the global imperative for social distancing by encouraging employees to work from home.

And it’s not only the higher-paid technical workers who are being considered. Microsoft was the first to commit to paying hourly workers such as shuttle drivers and food service workers, even if their work hours are reduced as a result of the disease, a policy that was then adopted by other companies. Gig economy companies such as Uber and Lyft have announced plans to fund 14 days of sick leave for drivers who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed under quarantine. Amazon initially announced that it would not penalize warehouse workers for taking unpaid time off if they were sick during the month of March. On Wednesday, it announced a new policy that will provide paid sick leave for all employees affected by the coronavirus, according to the Wall Street Journal.
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