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Microsoft event logoAfter years of negotiations, a group of temporary workers at Microsoft supplier Lionbridge Technologies has signed its first union contract with the company.

Key provisions of the contract with Lionbridge include changes to the temporary worker classification, pay raises, severance pay, increased time off and paid holidays, said Philippe Boucher, who spearheaded the unionization effort. He and many of his fellow contractors felt like second-class citizens in the office because they didn’t get many of the same benefits bestowed upon some of the people they worked with on a daily basis.

“It seems so little, like crumbs, but when you’re hungry … it’s a big deal,” Boucher said of some of the provisions in the contract, like raises for people at the low-end of the pay scale.

Phillipe Boucher
Phillippe Boucher

But it wasn’t all good news for workers at Lionbridge. Approximately a third of the 33 people working in the company’s Bellevue office were laid off or agreed to leave voluntarily this month, according to a report from The Seattle Times. Lionbridge told employees the layoffs resulted from less work coming from Microsoft. Philippe said that rationale makes sense, but he speculated the layoffs might have had something to do with the contract and unionization efforts.

Lionbridge did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

Technology giants are known for their snazzy employee benefit packages, but they are increasingly dependent on outside contracting firms without the same reputation. Some firms are trying to close that gap by extending benefits to contract workers who often work in the same office right alongside traditional employees. Last year, Microsoft mandated its suppliers — the tens of thousands of “orange badge” workers provided by outside technology staffing companies, who work alongside the “blue badge” Microsoft employees — give employees 15 days of paid leave per year. Shortly after Microsoft’s announcement, Facebook made a similar move that requires a $15 minimum wage, 15 paid days off and a $4,000 “new child benefit” to help moms and dads take parental leave.

Boucher, who wrote a book about the unionization process, said there are still a lot of things to work out. For example, the contract didn’t include paid parental leave. Many of the members were upset that they dropped legal cases against Lionbridge and Microsoft as concessions in the contract.

Boucher himself left his job with Lionbridge before the layoffs happened and the contract was ratified, mostly because of a difficult commute between his home on Bainbridge Island and his office in Bellevue. The irony is, if Boucher had just stayed another month, he says he would have been eligible for severance pay included in the union contract.

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