Belfast Telegraph

Community in Cork concerned as Apple subcontractor lays off 300 staff

Staff working for GlobeTech at Cork Business Park were affected as Apple apologised to customers.

Apple HQ in Co Cork (Niall Carson/PA)
Apple HQ in Co Cork (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

A wave of job losses has caused concern in Cork after 300 tech staff were laid off.

Hundreds of employees working for GlobeTech at Cork Business Park were laid off last week after Apple announced it would make changes to its Siri voice assistant.

TD for the area Mick Barry said: “It’s a disgrace that 300 people have been let go with no notice and, in many cases, with one week’s pay.

Apple should ensure that every single worker is paid up and in full to the original date that their contract was meant to end Mick Barry

“There needs to be a change in the law to prevent companies from treating workers in this way.

“Apple should ensure that every single worker is paid up and in full to the original date that their contract was meant to end.

“There are workers from Cork, other EU countries and outside Europe, and none of them were given any notice of this, and while they will try and find alternative employment, they have been given no guarantees.”

Fine Gael councillor Shane O’Callaghan said there are concerns about young people employed at GlobeTech finding new employment.

For so many to lose work in the area at the one time is a big blow and that may make it hard to find other work Shane O'Callaghan

“Certainly people are worried, there’s been a lot of talk about it around the city,” he said.

“It’s a big loss to the area and people are very concerned about it.

“There are other tech companies in Cork but I don’t know if there would be enough to replace the 300 that lost their jobs.

“That’s a huge amount of employees and there may be other tech jobs but not that many. For so many to lose work in the area at the one time is a big blow and that may make it hard to find other work.

“A lot of the workers will be younger people mainly in their 20s and 30s, it’ll be a big concern for everyone.”

The changes to Apple come after the Guardian newspaper reported that whistleblowers said staff in some centres regularly heard “confidential medical information” and “recordings of couples having sex, as part of their job providing quality control”.

“There have been countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters and so on,” the Guardian said earlier this month.

There is no suggestion in the Guardian’s reporting that staff in Cork were involved in listening to Apple customers.

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Siri is available on the Apple HomePod (Apple/PA)

Apple said the data “is used to help Siri and dictation” and to “understand you better and recognise what you say”.

An apology from Apple, posted on its website on Wednesday, said: “We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process — which we call grading.

“We heard their concerns, immediately suspended human grading of Siri requests and began a thorough review of our practices and policies. We’ve decided to make some changes to Siri as a result.”

IT solutions business GlobeTech confirmed last week that a number of employees had been informed “that a client project has been brought to an early conclusion”.

“The company is assessing the impact of this decision on the business and will continue to engage proactively with all employees in the coming days,” a statement said.

“This is a difficult situation for everyone involved,” said GlobeTech chief executive Kevin Kelly.

“The nature of our business means that the majority of our employee contracts are fixed purpose and are linked to client requirements and project life cycles. We are committed to supporting our employees through potential redeployment opportunities, where possible.”

PA

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