Sunday, July 3, 2016

Frustrating 4th of July: Paid holiday discrimination thanks to Microsoft and Lionbridge Technologies

 I have been working full time for Microsoft via their supplier Lionbridge Technologies for 4.5 years, since December 5 2011 when I was part of the first team in their app certification lab. I am still misclassified by Lionbridge as a 'temporary worker' because we had the audacity to vote for a union in September 2014. In January 2015, Lionbridge decided that after 9 months of full time employment, its temporary workers will be laid off or be 'converted' to 'regular' status with the corresponding benefits that include paid holidays. So what am I complaining about? There is an exception to this conversion scheme: if you happen to be represented by a union in the process of a collective bargaining negotiation, Lionbridge has decided this conversion does not apply to you.
We discovered this very recently as Lionbridge had chosen not to share with us this policy change except when they started telling co-workers they could not get any pay raise nor paid holidays because of the union. The implicit/explicit message was clear: get rid of the union and get pay raises and paid holidays. The NLRB is presently investigating a union's charge  in this matter against Lionbridge for bad faith bargaining and meanwhile it will be one more 4th of July without pay. As Lionbridge is very aware this creates a hardship for the employees who really need a full week pay, they 'generously' accept that people work 10 hours per day during the rest of the week, to compensate for the 8 hours they have not been paid on July 4th. Of course this is not considered overtime. As for Microsoft, they keep looking the other way, even more so now that the union claimed they should be considered a joint employer.
In March 2015, Microsoft required that its suppliers provide at least 15 days of paid time off to their employees. As I have accumulated enough paid time off I am able this year to use it to get paid on July 4.  Does that represent a huge improvement?
The reality is that in 1998, that's 18 years ago, Microsoft had required that its suppliers provide 13 days of paid time off to their employees: apparently this policy had been abandoned sometimes during those 18 years since it was never mentioned or implemented until our union started to protest about the lack of any benefits. 18 years later the difference is only 2 extra days. Microsoft's requirement is still lacking as it  does not not respect the terms of article 7 (d) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  that affirms the rights of workers to  'Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays': a clear requirement that public holidays be paid on top of usual paid time off. Although this Convention was never ratified by the US Senate, Microsoft voluntarily committed itself to implement all its content when they joined the UN Global Compact in 2006. That's ten years ago, ten years with thousands of workers deprived of their rights and the thousands/millions of dollars involved. 
That's why celebrating July 4th is still for me quite a stretch and a frustrating reminder of the paid holiday discrimination for thousands of misclassified temporary workers employed by Microsoft and its suppliers.

Philippe Boucher
President, Temporary Workers of America
Author of The Other Microsoft.

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