The loss of up to 300 jobs in Cork following the decision by Apple to end its is a “big concern for everyone”, politicians have warned.
As first reported by the Irish Examiner, employees at Globetech, a third party company working for Apple in Cork, were laid off last week after Apple announced it would make changes to its Siri voice assistant.
As revealed by the Irish Examiner last week, Globetech employees were expected to listen to more than 1,000 Siri recordings each shift.
“We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement when we started that meant we couldn’t talk about what we did in detail,” one employee in Cork who had their contract termination told the Irish Examiner.
“We were not allowed to say we worked for Apple.”
Last month, the Guardian reported that whistleblowers said staff in centers regularly heard confidential medical information and recordings of couples having sex.
Solidarity TD 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.
“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.
“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.”
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,” the company said in a statement.
“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.”
The Data Protection Commission (DPC) is also in talks with Apple to establish how letting human contractors here listen to Siri recordings was complaint with the tech giant’s GDPR obligations.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley has requested that Apple representatives appear before the Oireachtas communications committee shortly.
Additional reporting by PA