Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 Thanksgiving at Microsoft: the stinging bitterness of an unpaid holiday

I have been working full time as a tester/reviewer in the Windows App Certification Center since January 2012. Thanksgiving 2015 is coming. Microsoft gives two paid holidays to its ‘direct employees’ for Thanksgiving but we are employed via a supplier (Lionbridge Technologies) that does not offer any paid holiday.
In my case, this lack of paid holidays has saved Microsoft and Lionbridge a total of more than $7K during the last four years. Meanwhile my co-workers and I keep struggling from paycheck to paycheck and many are going to choose to come to the office the day after Thanksgiving not to lose another payday. Of course this Friday will not be paid overtime, just the regular $17 to $22 per hour, the same unchanged rates than 4 years ago.

On March 26 2015 Microsoft proudly announced ‘paid time off matters’ and required that its US suppliers provide ‘at least 15 days of paid time off’ to their employees. Eight months later, Lionbridge is finally going to comply: after 4 years of full time employment what do I get at the end of 2015? Less than two days, because Lionbridge does not take into account to calculate paid time off for 2015 any of the time worked before November 20 when they decided -at last- to start implementing Microsoft’s requirement.
In their 2015 annual corporate citizenship report released in October, Microsoft leaders congratulate themselves for ‘launching new policies to ensure that our US suppliers provide paid leave to their employees who handle our work’ while recognizing that ‘there is always more we can do and we welcome feedback from our many stakeholders around the world. We look forward to hearing from you’.
So while my 4th Thanksgiving as an unpaid holiday approaches, here is my feedback to Microsoft: revisit your paid leave requirement to your US suppliers to add the same ten paid public holidays you give to your own ‘direct’ employees.
Consider also adding a decent paid parental leave as your present policy does nothing for new parents and their babies while you increased the number of paid parental leave you give to your ‘direct’ employees.
Stingy paid holiday discrimination at Thanksgiving leaves a hole in our pocketbook and a pervasive and very unpleasant feeling of being discarded. It will pass. Come Christmas, New Year’s Eve and this stinging unpaid holiday bitterness will return. I hope that when comes the time to celebrate Martin Luther King’s Day, all Microsoft’s US suppliers will make it a paid holiday for all their employees. It would be fitting, and right.
Maybe some readers will believe I am just an isolated whining wimp who needs to get a grip, get himself another job if he cannot be grateful for what the present one provides. Maybe there are forty thousands or more of so-called temporary workers employed by Microsoft’s suppliers in King County who share my experience and feelings without saying anything publicly.
As geeks love data it would be easy to find out: Microsoft organizes each year an ‘annual online anonymous poll of all employees to share feedback about Microsoft work experience’. Why not really ask all of us, not only Microsoft ‘direct’ employees how they feel about their experience working for Microsoft, their work-life balance (or lack of), how concretely the new policies impact them, what they wish for?
Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Philippe Boucher

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