In a notable departure from the prevailing trend of layoffs within the gaming industry, Microsoft is taking steps to hire and integrate dozens of ZeniMax quality assurance contractors as unionized employees. Earlier this year, Microsoft formally recognized a union representing approximately 300 QA workers at ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, acquired by Microsoft in 2021. As part of ongoing bargaining talks initiated in April, Microsoft has committed to employing 77 temporary workers and absorbing them into the ZeniMax Workers United-CWA (Communications Workers of America) union.
Of these workers, 23 will be hired as full-time, permanent employees with a substantial pay increase of 22.2 percent. The remaining 54 workers will receive an immediate pay raise from $18 per hour to $20.75 an hour. Once the collective bargaining agreement is finalized, Microsoft will proceed to hire these workers as temporary employees.
As per the CWA (Communications Workers of America), the newly hired employees will now be entitled to paid holidays and sick leave. Previously, sick leave was only accessible if contractors resided in a jurisdiction mandating paid time off for illness. Additionally, all workers will be provided with a copy of Starfield, the high-profile game on which they contributed their efforts. The CWA highlights that it wasn’t customary for contractors to receive copies of the games they assisted in shipping.
The union, represented by the CWA, expresses its commitment to continuing the advocacy for more contractors to have a pathway to permanent roles. Microsoft’s Vice President, Amy Pannoni, stated to Bloomberg, “We look forward to continued good faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement.”
Chris Lusco, an associate QA tester and a member of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA, stated, “We are now stronger at the bargaining table and are working to secure a fair contract for all workers — direct employees and contractors. We are all a part of ZeniMax Studio’s success and we all deserve our fair share. We hope to set a new precedent for workers across Microsoft and the entire gaming industry so that all workers, regardless of their employment status, are able to improve their working conditions through collective bargaining.”
Last year, during Microsoft’s efforts to gain regulatory approval for acquiring Activision Blizzard, the company committed to neutrality when the publisher’s employees expressed a desire to unionize. The agreement with the CWA to that effect is scheduled to take effect on December 12, 60 days after the completion of the Activision deal.