Microsoft Embraces Labour Unions: Won’t Fight IT Employee Unions, But Open To Dialogue & Talks

Microsoft Embraces Labour Unions: Won't Fight IT Employee Unions, But Open To Dialogue & Talks
Microsoft Embraces Labour Unions: Won’t Fight IT Employee Unions, But Open To Dialogue & Talks

Microsoft has penned a blog post detailing how its employees will not have to unionize since the company will let them directly communicate with them instead.

Context

This comes in the backdrop of recent unionization campaigns across the US, Amazon being the latest and most infamous.

Microsoft has laid out a “new set of principles” around employee organizing and how it will engage with its employees.

Each point also contains a counterpoint.

“Believe in the importance of listening to our employees’ concerns”

Leaders at the company have an open door policy and it invests in listening systems and employee resource groups.

The company recognizes that some employees in some countries may wish to form or join a union.

  • However, in a scenario where an employee meets one on one with their boss, evidently the latter has the company’s backing which a worker lacks, who is dependent on that same company for their livelihood.
  • A union would address that vast disparity in power.

“Recognize that employees have a legal right to choose whether to form or join a union”

MS respects this right since there is “no benefit” to resisting lawful employee efforts to participate in protected activities, including forming or joining a union.

  • This could be interpreted as saying that it will obey the law. 
  • Also, recognising workers rights to unionize hasn’t stopped other tech companies (most notably Amazon) from engaging in anti-union actions.

“Committed to creative and collaborative approaches with unions”

This applies to cases when employees wish to exercise their rights and MS is presented with a specific unionization proposal.

Such proposals will “open an opportunity for Microsoft” to work with an existing union for employees to exercise their rights through a private agreement.

  • Note the phrase “private agreement”.
  • As per law, collective bargaining agreements between an employer and the union are typically public.

“Dedicated to maintaining a close relationship and shared partnership with all our employees, including those represented by a union”

MS already has global labor experiences and has for several decades “collaborated closely”  with works councils across Europe, as well as several unions globally.

  • Here’s one such example, though the outcome is a bit different.
  • In 2014, bug testers who were contracted to MS formed a union. Then within a few years, all 38 of them were laid off.
  • They filed a complaint with the concerned authority and in response, MS reportedly spent four years attempting to stall the process.
  • It tried to convince the agency it should not be considered a joint employer.

Main Takeaway

The long blog post can be interpreted in several ways, but unless the company actually commits to meaningful, well-defined policies, instead of “principles” or “goals”, none of it really means anything beyond a PR stunt.

Reacting on this development, Harpreet Singh Saluja, President, Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate NITES said, “Conceding that the rise of labor unions in IT Sector may ultimately reach its own business, Microsoft has recently released a new set of principles acknowledging the rights of its employees to organize.

Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate NITES welcomes this move and urge the employees not to hesitate in uniting for a collective dialogue with the organizations.

The IT employees have a right to join a Union or to form one. We expect that the Indian IT Sector companies will also follow the same path. The Indian Government has always given priority and support for the growth of IT Sector by a lot of initiatives. But the employees who were at the receiving end were neglected in this process. We are expecting now the same kind of support from the Government towards welfare and rights of IT and ITES employees.”

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