Microsoft is hiring dozens of ZeniMax QA contractors as unionized employees

One of the perks is a copy of Starfield, a game the temps worked on and wouldn't otherwise have gotten for free.


Game studios and publishers have collectively laid off an estimated 9,000-plus workers this year. Microsoft (which itself has laid off workers from Xbox teams in 2023) is bucking the trend to a certain extent by hiring dozens of ZeniMax quality assurance contractors as unionized employees.

The company agreed at the beginning of this year to formally recognize a union representing around 300 QA workers at ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda that Microsoft bought in 2021. As part of bargaining talks that have been ongoing since April, Microsoft has agreed to hire 77 temporary workers and incorporate them into the ZeniMax Workers United-CWA (Communications Workers of America) union.

Microsoft is hiring 23 of the workers as full-time, permanent employees with a pay increase of 22.2 percent. The other 54 workers are getting an immediate pay bump from $18 per hour to $20.75 an hour. Once the collective bargaining agreement is ratified, Microsoft will hire those workers as temporary employees.

According to the CWA, the new employees will now receive paid holidays and sick leave. The latter was previously only available if contractors lived in a jurisdiction that requires paid time off for illness. In addition, all of the workers will receive a copy of Starfield, the blockbuster game they had worked on. The CWA says it was not standard practice for contractors to get copies of the games they help to ship.

The CWA says the union will keep fighting for more contractors to have a pathway to permanent roles. “We look forward to continued good faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement,” Microsoft vice president Amy Pannoni told Bloomberg.

“We are now stronger at the bargaining table and are working to secure a fair contract for all workers — direct employees and contractors," Chris Lusco, associate QA tester and a member of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA, said in a statement. "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, while Microsoft was attempting to win regulatory approval to buy Activision Blizzard, the company said it would remain neutral when the publisher's employees wished to unionize. A pact it reached with the CWA to that effect is set to come into force on December 12, 60 days after the Activision deal closed.