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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Janet I. Tu.

July 19, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Microsoft imposes new rules on contract workers, requiring 6-month break from access

Corrected version

Microsoft is imposing new restrictions on those who work for the company through vendors and temp agencies. The new rules limit those workers to 18 months of access to Microsoft buildings and corporate networks, after which they will be required to take a 6-month break from access.

The move could affect tens of thousands of contractors who work at Microsoft in various roles from software development to content provision. (Microsoft has always declined to say how many such “external staff” it uses.)

The move also comes at a time when Microsoft is laying off 18,000 of its full-time employees and is reconsidering how it uses its vendor and temp staff.

The change, outlined in a memo sent Friday by Microsoft’s Global Procurement team to external staffing agencies, says:

The policy change affects US-based external staff (including Agency Temporaries, Vendors and Business Guests) and limits their access to Microsoft buildings and the Microsoft corporate network to a period of 18 months, with a required six-month break before access may be granted again. If your staff does not have Microsoft building or network access, this policy change will not apply to or impact them. The policy went into effect July 1st, 2014…

Currently, most of Microsoft’s contract workers are classified either as “v-dash” — those who are contracted through vendors, or “a-dash” — those who are contracted through temp agencies.

V-dash workers, prior to this policy change, could work indefinitely, until the project they were hired for ends. They could also be hired onto another v-dash position immediately after their last project ends.

So for v-dash workers, the new policy means that, whereas they could work indefinitely before, they will now have to take a 6-month break if their work requires access to Microsoft buildings or its corporate network.

A-dash workers, prior to this policy change, could work up to a year, after which they were required to take a 100-day break.

For a-dash workers, the new policy means that the amount of time they can work continuously has been extended, from a year to 18 months, but the break they are required to take, if their job requires network or building access, is now doubled.

“We’re already aware of the fact that we’re not FTEs [full-time equivalent employees]. We don’t need another reminder,” said one v-dash employee who asked not to be named. “A lot of the contractors are starting to look for new positions. Maybe that’s what they [Microsoft] want. Maybe they just want to make it easier for us to leave on our own.”

Microsoft couched the changes in terms of better protection for its intellectual property and confidential information.

“While network and building access may be required to effectively complete project work, we often have effective means of working together without granting access,” according to the memo sent from the company’s Global Procurement team. “This policy will help our sponsors to make thoughtful decisions regarding network and building access to strengthen protection of Microsoft’s confidential communication.”

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said: “The new policy does not affect their [contractors'] work. It affects card key access and access to the Microsoft network. If a v-dash does not require access to the internal Microsoft corporate network or card key access to Microsoft buildings, then they can work on Microsoft projects indefinitely.”

It is unclear how many of these contract workers would be able to work on Microsoft projects without access to the network or buildings — or if that’s even possible. That is something that will be evaluated in the next 18 months under the new policy, Murray said.

He said the new policy was designed, in part, to “help employees make thoughtful choices” about whom they grant network and building access to. “It’s not clear that all of the access to the corporate network that’s currently been granted is absolutely necessary for people to do their work,” Murray said. “It’s more been granted out of habit or out of default.”

He acknowledged that “the company does want to carefully consider the volume of our use of external staff. But this particular policy is focused on protecting our confidential information and intellectual property.”

Another category of external staff — those working for outsourced supply companies such as those providing cafeteria workers and front-desk staff — do not fall under this new policy. Those workers can work year-round without the required 6-month break in access.

Additionally, the new policy also affects any Microsoft employee  (FTE) who left the company on or after July 1. Such former employees will now have to take a minimum 6-month break from access before they can begin an assignment as a vendor or temp for the company.

Here’s the memo from the Microsoft Global Procurement team to external staffing agencies. And here’s a memo sent by the company to internal employees who sponsor external staff (such as contractors who work for vendors and temp agencies).

[Update July 20: I asked Microsoft whether the new policy applies to external staff overseas as well. Company spokesman Mark Murray said: "We began this change in the U.S. because that is where our largest presence is, but we do plan to roll out this policy change globally, subject to local law.]

Information in this blog post, originally published July 19, was corrected later that day. A previous version of this post had incorrectly quoted Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray as saying a new policy on external staff’s access to Microsoft buildings and networks was designed, in part, to “help employees make helpful choices” about who is granted access. Murray actually said the new policy was designed, in part, to “help employees make thoughtful choices” about who is granted access.

Comments | More in Microsoft, Microsoft layoffs | Topics: a-dash, contractors, v-dash


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