Microsoft and Labour Union Reach a Neutrality Agreement

Microsoft and Labour Union Reach a Neutrality Agreement
Microsoft executive Brad Smith has previously championed the unionization rights of workers. (Image: Jeenah Moon, Getty Images)

The Communications Workers of America announced today via press release that they have reached a labour neutrality agreement with Microsoft. The agreement has five core provisions, the most notable of which is Microsoft agreeing to remain neutral in employee unionization efforts.

The CWA revealed that they have successfully reached a labour neutrality agreement with Microsoft, which will allow employees to join a union without interference from the company. The agreement will apply to Activision Blizzard employees beginning 60 days after Microsoft’s acquisition of the video game developer. While the deal to buy Activision Blizzard hasn’t officially closed yet, Microsoft did agree to purchase the company — which has popular games like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch in its portfolio — earlier this year for a whopping $US68.7 ($95) billion.

“This agreement provides a pathway for Activision Blizzard workers to exercise their democratic rights to organise and collectively bargain after the close of the Microsoft acquisition and establishes a high road framework for employers in the games industry,” said Chris Shelton, President of CWA. “Microsoft’s binding commitments will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard benefits the company’s workers and the broader video game labour market.”

The specific provisions of the agreement between CWA and Microsoft are:

  • Microsoft will remain neutral when covered employees express interest in joining union efforts,
  • Covered employees will be able to discuss the union freely with fellow employees and union representatives,
  • Employees will have access to appropriate technology that will allow them to join a union,
  • Employees may choose not to disclose their decision to join a union,
  • Microsoft and the CWA will work together to reach an agreement when a problem arises, and will rely on an expedited arbitration process if they cannot.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post earlier this month that employees have a legal right to join a union if they wish, citing how the labour landscape in the tech sector is changing — and it actually is. Tech companies (especially video game developers) pride themselves on state-of-the-art offices and the ability to work on groundbreaking products, but that allure is built on a labour force that is getting burnt out. But employees are beginning to vouch for better working conditions. Earlier this month, Google Maps contractors threatened to go on strike over the company’s return to office policy. The company granted the contractors a 90-day extension. The labour revolution will continue, and companies like Microsoft opting to champion the rights of workers — instead of squashing them — will hopefully set the pace for more just workspaces moving forward.