Is Google laying off thousands of workers?
Perhaps, but not in the traditional, "We are cutting our employee base by x percent due to a deteriorating macroeconomic environment" manner.
The question begs an answer after a blog post from WebGuild President Daya Baran surfaced today, Nov. 24, in which he said Google may cut as many as 10,000 jobs.
After speaking to a Google spokesperson today, it seems the source of Baran's news may stem from Google's previously announced plan to trim many of its 10,000 temporary workers, or contractors.
Google made this plan public Oct. 16 as part of its third-quarter earnings announcement when it said it would drastically trim its contract workers, which includes public relations staffers, cafeteria workers and bus drivers.
There are some 10,000 people who fall into this category. That's an important figure to remember because it's the same figure Baran cites for his layoff scenario.
Why hasn't Google made a solemn formal statement about this? These are contractors, or temporary workers who may work full time but don't receive benefits, so Google doesn't have to make a splashy announcement about it.
The Google spokesperson told me Google's plan to trim temps is still on, so maybe some of them found Baran's ear and are selling him on the Titanic-is-sinking story. Moreover, Baran shifts from citing secret sources to supposition:
"So, how does Google get around the SEC requirement regarding material information? Google has hundreds of lawyers figuring out how not to get caught. One of them is by moving workers from job to job every few months so that their status remains temporary. That is why you probably have never spoken to the same person twice at Google and that is also why there is somebody new on the job and most times you know more about their job than they do."
The idea that Google uses hundreds of lawyers to dodge material reporting seems far-fetched. I know there are a lot of theories about Google's evil practices, but they usually involve how Google is invading our privacy and collecting enough data to create digital books about us.
Those seem more plausible than an insidious plot to hide layoffs from the public. And Baran's phrasing in the above about having a hard time reaching people at Google seems like a sour-grapes gripe of the first order. I reach out to Google folks daily; it's not that hard. When some Googlers fail to reach out to me, I let them know about it.
I'm inclined to follow John Battelle's example and ask someone with knowledge of the situation to drop me a line on Google Watch or seek out my eWEEK e-mail alias.