In the context of another tech boom, Apple has decided to bring the majority of its contract security staff in-house as permanent, full-time employees, according to a recent media report in The San Jose Mercury News (Apple is based in the Cupertino area just west of San Jose).
The move follows a year long review into the company’s use of contract security staff but it also reflects an interesting turn of events. Wealthy tech giants have been coming under increasingly hostile scrutiny in recent times in relation to their hiring procedures. Many have been prepared to spend millions in the acquisition of talent from small or failing startups, yet those same companies have remained obstinately averse to paying their own on-campus staff as standard employees.
Frankly, as TechCrunch journalist Alex Wilhelm notes, this has been a sore point. Following the recession of 2008, tech companies have been on a growth stampede, at least since 2009. The argument they’ve been using – that cost considerations have forced them to use the contract model – has worn absurdly thin. Many of the biggest firms in the country are sitting on cash mountains amounting to tens of billions of dollars. Playing the hard up penny-watcher simply doesn’t wash in a financial climate like that (the NASDAQ is trading at surreal levels unseen since the last big tech bubble).
Failing to extend full employment rights and benefits to an army of contract staff may begin to rankle with consumers who rely on these firms for their access to digital content under conditions like this. As a result, the tide appears to be turning: Google brought its own contract security staff in-house as permanent employees last year. Tech firms appear to be following one another in reducing their use of external labour for non-technical roles.
And that external labour is starting to rebel: contract shuttle bus drivers used by many tech companies to ferry staff back and forth along the San Francisco peninsula, have recently voted to unionise (at least, those hired by Yahoo, Apple and Facebook have – more may well follow).
As Wilhelm puts it in his TechCrunch piece:
“Apple and Google will not be the last to increase their in-house labour pools. Taking care of the people who take care of you is just good sense.”