Monday, January 4, 2016

Microsoft's Temporary Workers 3 wishes for 2016

There are thousands of people employed by Microsoft via vendors (Microsoft has not divulged the exact number). Many of them are classified as 'temporary' although their initial contract can be extended for years. Vendors use the temporary (mis)classification as a way to deny basic benefits like any sort of paid leave. On March 26 2015, Microsoft announced it cared for the health and wellness of those workers and would therefore, within the next nine months, require  vendors to provide them with 'at least 15 days of paid time off per year'. 
How has this policy change be implemented, how many vendors and employees are concerned, how do they feel about it, are questions that remain unanswered. 
Our first wish for 2016 is for Microsoft to organize an anonymous and detailed survey of all it's vendor's employees to collect the data to evaluate the work experience including the new paid time off requirement and share them with the public.
We have done such a survey within our small lab (40 people) and the results we got are the basis of our second and third wishes.
As it is structured, the 'at least 15 days of paid time off' requirement does not set aside any extra time for paid parental leave. New parents remain deprived of any support during the period when they welcome a child. Respondents to our survey clearly indicated employees (like 80% of the respondents of the CBS nationwide survey) are in favor of requiring the employer to provide significant (at least 4 weeks) paid parental leave. That's our second wish.
On August 5, 2015, Microsoft announced it was extending the paid parental leave it offers its own full time employees to 12 weeks. Leaving new parents who work for Microsoft via a vendor without any paid parental leave is contributing to the huge inequalities Microsoft said it was concerned about when they decided their new policy. It is a gap that should be corrected in 2016, as soon as possible.
On August 5, Microsoft also announced it was increasing by two days its paid public holidays benefit. In 2016, Microsoft full time employees will enjoy 10 paid public holidays, the first new addition being Martin Luther King Day. 
Our third wish, expressed as well in our small survey is for all of Microsoft's vendors employees to enjoy in 2016 a paid Martin Luther King holiday and the other 9 paid public holidays on Microsoft's list.
In 2006, Microsoft signed to the UN Global Compact, a voluntary initiative by multinational companies to implement the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several other international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966. Article 7 (d) states as a right for the employees: 'Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays'.
Our third wish is consistent with Microsoft public statements to implement their commitment to this International Covenant. 
Is that too much to wish for when this covenant was adopted 50 years ago? As for Martin Luther King Day it was designated as a paid public holiday in 1986, 30 years ago. 

Philippe Boucher
Author of The Other Microsoft.

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