Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
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  • Google has been accused of "union-busting" after it fired four employees on Monday for what it described in an internal memo as "clear and repeated violations" of its data security policies.
  • According to Bloomberg, the internal memo said that the employees had searched and distributed information outside the scope of their jobs. But the employees said they were targeted for their criticism of their employer.
  • On Tuesday, employee activist group Google Walkout for Real Change published a blog post on Medium which accused Google of "hiring a union-busting firm" and "attempting to crush worker organising."
  • A Google spokesman told Business Insider that it "could confirm" the contents of the internal note published by Bloomberg, without providing further comment.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Activist employees at Google have accused the firm of union busting after it fired four employees on Monday for what it described as "clear and repeated violations" of its data security policy.

On Tuesday, the activist group Google Walkout for Real Change published a blog post on Medium which accused Google of "hiring a union-busting firm" and "attempting to crush worker organising."

The group was behind the mass employee walkouts at Google over sexual harassment in 2018, but has evolved to discuss wider workplace issues at the company. The group disputed Google's version of events, and said the firm had fired employees who also happened to be involved in protests about the company's culture.

The post read: "Four of our colleagues took a stand and organised for a better workplace. This is explicitly condoned in Google's Code of Conduct, which ends: "And remember… don't be evil, and if you see something that you think isn't right - speak up."

"When they did, Google retaliated against them. Today, after putting two of them on sudden and unexplained leave, the company fired all four in an attempt to crush worker organising."

On Monday, Google circulated an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg which stated the firm had fired four employees for searching for and distributing information outside the scope of their jobs. Two of the four had been involved in protests against Google, and insinuated that they had been targeted for their activism.

The Medium post accused Google of of deliberately obfuscating its policy on which documents employees could look at, so that employees would unwittingly look at off-limits documents - giving Google an excuse for targeting employees as it saw fit.

A protester at the 2018 Google walkouts over sexual harassment.
Troy Wolverton/Business Insider

"Around the same time Google redrafted its policies, making it a fireable offense to even look at certain documents. And let's be clear, looking at such documents is a big part of Google culture; the company describes it as a benefit in recruiting, and even encourages new hires to read docs from projects all across the company," the post continued.

The group added that the policy was unclear, and that documents were not labeled as "off-limits."

"No meaningful guidance has ever been offered on how employees could consistently comply with this policy. The policy change amounted to: access at your own risk and let executives figure out whether you should be punished after the fact," the group wrote.

"We knew then, and it's clear now: this policy change was setting up an excuse to retaliate against organisers, allowing the company a pretext for picking and choosing who to target."

Current and former Googlers expressed outrage about the firings, and supported the view that Google was clamping down on vocal employees. The New York Times earlier reported that Google had quietly hired an anti-union consulting firm called IRI Consultants.

Meredith Whittaker, who helped organise the 2018 walkout, described the firm's actions as "craven retaliation."

A Google spokesman said it "can confirm the contents of the internal note" published in Bloomberg's article, without providing further comment.

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