A group of contractors working for IT staffing firm Artech have come forward with claims of systemic wage theft, according to The Verge. Artech supplies contractors to a range of tech companies including Google, who hires the workers through Accenture’s Flex program, a third organization that manages scaled support contracts. This makes the affected contractors twice removed from the company they’re actually conducting daily work for—an arrangement that results in vastly reduced hourly wages.
Based on numerous claims, Artech has reportedly been chopping up to a third of contractors’ expected income. While one contractor was signed on at $30.08 an hour (the hourly wage Artech told Google he was being paid), he was actually only receiving $20 an hour. This resulted in more than $10,000 in lost wages across six months of work. Three other Google contractors told The Verge they’d experienced similar losses and knew more contractors who had dealt with the same issue. Many members of the group only began to realize they were being underpaid when colleagues suggested they compare their paychecks with Artech’s work orders. Others who had spotted the discrepancies believed them to be one-off administrative mistakes…until they began discussing their experiences with others, which allowed them to connect the dots.
The repetitive nature of the “errors,” along with the timing of each subsequent investigation’s resolution, is increasingly perceived to be suspect. One contractor told The Verge that these issues were never identified by Artech itself, but instead were the workers’ responsibility to notice and report: “Unless you initiate the investigation and make the case, nothing happens.” And almost immediately after telling The Verge it denied the workers’ allegation of systemic underpayment, Artech backpaid the lost wages owed to the contractor mentioned earlier.
Tech companies often hire contractors for support roles, especially when those roles are in high demand or might be outsourced to other countries within a relatively short time frame. This is a controversial practice; many contract workers work 40 hours a week or more without the benefits typical of a salaried role with the same schedule, like paid time off or subsidized insurance. And as these Google contractors have pointed out, this multi-layered form of employment offers ample opportunity for payroll mistakes or manipulation.
Sure enough, this isn’t the first time Google contractors have been underpaid. Two years ago a group of Google Assistant temporary contract workers revealed that they’d been pressured by Google to work overtime without extra pay.
Artech told The Verge it’s conducting an internal investigation regarding the workers’ latest complaint, though the details so far are confidential.
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