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Google's CEO's big income peak has left the workers aggrieved

May 5, 2023: Google CEO Sundar Pichai got a salary increase the previous year, making him one of the highest-paid CEOs in America. Last week, his party authorized a $70 billion stock buyback.

Meanwhile, Google parent Alphabet has been cutting costs, including eliminating 12,000 jobs, in response to slowing revenue growth.

That confluence of events has increased the ire of Google’s workforce. In the weeks after Pichai’s annual compensation was made public, internal Google platforms have filled with conversations and memes slamming the CEO for having a pay bump while slashing costs elsewhere. Some workers also criticized the share repurchase, which equalled its 2022 buyback.

SEC filings showed Pichai was paid $226 million last year, mainly through a $218 million stock award he receives every three years. The award he received in 2019 was for $276.6 million, and complete compensation was $280.6 million.

His 2022 package has included nearly $6 million for emotional security and a $2 million base salary. In 2021, Pichai received a total of $6.3 million, which is a $2 million salary and $4.3 million in compensation.

Memes started circulating that compare Pichai to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who received over a 40% cut from his 2022 target total compensation in January. Similarly, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said he would reduce his salary by 98% and reject his bonus following the company cut of 1,300 workers. Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson said he’d also take a pay cut between a 17% workforce reduction.

According to posts, more than a dozen memes from workers have filled Google’s internal discussion forums, many with several hundred likes. Found amounts ranged from employee laptops and expenses to fitness classes and cafe items. One meme with over 1,200 likes referred to remarks from finance chief Ruth Porat, who wrote in the previous month in a rare all over wide email that the firm is making “multi-year” cuts to employee services.

“Ruth’s cost savings applied to everyone apart from our hardworking VPS and CEO,” the meme stated.

It’s not the initial time Pichai has been under fire for his recent decision-making. In January, Pichai stated that he took “full responsibility” for conditions that led to the firm-wide layoffs.

At an all-hands meeting, workers asked Pichai why executives were getting pay cuts if he took responsibility. Pichai responded that senior vice presidents are taking “huge reductions to their bonuses” and that he was forgoing his bonus.

Another popular meme showed an image of the Shrek character Lord Farquaad with the text “Sundar which accepts $226 million while laying off 12k Googlers, which cuts perks, and destroying morale and culture.” A quote from the character read, “A lot of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I will make.”

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