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m"We wanted to ensure we could secure the same working conditions, fair pay and benefits as our directly employed ZeniMax coworkers."

Chris Kerr, News Editor

December 7, 2023

2 Min Read
Key artwork for Starfield
Image via Bethesda

Microsoft has agreed to incorporate 77 contract workers into the ZeniMax Workers United-CWA union.

The Communication Workers of America (CWA), which helped ZeniMax staff unionize back in January, said the move will help establish a "new pathway to collective bargaining for contractors" in the video game industry.

The ZeniMax Workers United-CWA union represents over 300 QA employees within the Microsoft subsidiary, and will now include some contract staff.

Notably, 23 of the 77 contract workers that are being welcomed into the union will be converted into full-time employees, resulting in a 22.2 percent pay increase.

"The remaining 54 workers will receive an immediate 15.3 percent pay increase from $18/hour to $20.75/hour and be hired as temporary employees once negotiations conclude and the collective bargaining agreement is ratified," reads a press release sent out by CWA partner The Worker Agency. "Other improvements for the workers include paid holidays and paid sick leave, which had previously only been available for workers in locations which mandate paid time off for illness."

Each worker will also receive a free copy of Starfield, having previously contributed to the development of Bethesda's sprawling sci-fi RPG.

Unionized ZeniMax contractors celebrate "historic development"

As bargaining continues, the union intends to continue advocating for more contractors to have a pathway to permanent positions. Focusing on the here and now, however, ZeniMax Workers United-CWA union member Chris Lusco described the latest move as a "historic development."

"When my 77 coworkers and I decided to form a union, we wanted to ensure we could secure the same working conditions, fair pay and benefits as our directly employed ZeniMax coworkers. Microsoft took the high road by recognizing us as members of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA. We are now stronger at the bargaining table and are working to secure a fair contract for all workers—direct employees and contractors," he said.

"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."

Unionization has become a hot topic across the game industry, with an increasing number of workers seeking to organize in a bid to secure better working conditions. Employees at another Microsoft-owned studio, Activision Blizzard, will soon be given the ability to unionize unimpeded when a legally-binding labor neutrality agreement comes into effect later this month.

Microsoft entered into that agreement with the CWA in 2022, ahead of its seismic merger with Activision Blizzard.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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