REDMOND, Wash. (AP) Microsoft Corp. is limiting its temporary
workers to one year of employment at a time, with 100-day intervals
in between a move that will force up to 1,500 of its long-term
contract workers to find new jobs or seek permanent positions with
Microsoft's policy change, announced Friday, follows pressure
from litigation and union organizers to bar use of so-called
"permatemps" temporary workers who stay in the same job for
years, but without the benefits offered permanent workers.
The software giant began informing temp agencies early last week
of the new policy, which goes into effect July 1.
In the past, there was no limit on the amount of time temp
workers could stay at Microsoft.
Microsoft "is slowly but painfully finding out that they have
to treat people who work full time, year round, as regular
employees," said Mike Blain, a former contract worker at Microsoft
and co-founder of the Washington Association of Technical Workers,
a local labor group.
The company's permatemp practice was challenged in two lawsuits
filed by long-term temporary workers who want permanent-worker
benefits. Microsoft lost one case, which won temp workers the right
to buy Microsoft stock at a 15 percent discount. The second
lawsuit, seeking medical and retirement benefits, is pending.
Sharon Decker, Microsoft's director of contingent staffing, said
the company made the change because of the lawsuits and negative
publicity surrounding the permatemp issue.
Microsoft has been aggressively hiring temp workers into
full-time positions for the past couple of years, she said and
about 35 percent of new hires have worked there as temps.
"We want to make sure that our temporary assignments are true
short-term assignments, and one of the criteria is that they should
be less than 12 months," Decker said.
The average temporary assignment at the company is about 10
months, she said.
Decker encouraged Microsoft's 5,500 to 6,000 temp workers most
of whom are among the 13,800 people at its headquarters in this
east Seattle suburb to apply for the 3,000 permanent positions
now open. Microsoft has about 32,000 employees worldwide.
The company's new temp-limits policy reflects those at such
companies as IBM and Intel, said Rob Enderle, an analyst at
information-technology advisory firm Giga Information Group.
"They are bringing the corporate policy in line with the law,"
Enderle said. "You should never have a temporary person working
for more than one year."