How Nintendo treats their contracted employees has been a very hot topic in the last few weeks, and yet another report on the topic has come in. Stephen Totilo has done a bit more digging on the topic for Axios, and came up with a few more notable wrinkles in the overarching story.
One former contractor mentioned that their contractor position had very strict time-off rules, and they also echoed the limited options for upward momentum. Even worse, when this contractor’s grandfather passed away, they were apparently told they would lose their job if they went to their grandfather’s funeral.
Nintendo has only released one public statement on contractor complaints since word first broke three weeks ago. As you can probably guess, Nintendo’s higher-ups are talking about all the coverage online, which apparently led to NoA president Doug Bowser sending an internal message to employees.
In the memo, Mr. Bowser stated that hearing these complaints was “troubling,” and he was looking into the matter to get more insight. Bowser followed up by mentioning Nintendo’s “zero-tolerance for inappropriate conduct, including harassment, discrimination or intimidation.”
This wave of online coverage about the contractor situation all stemmed from one unnamed Nintendo employee who claimed their right to unionize was violated. Today, two more former contractors mentioned a mid-2014 effort when a group of Nintendo customer service workers started talking about unionization efforts. These discussions were reportedly squashed when management at Nintendo-affiliated Parker Staffing heard of them. Apparently, a Parker manager sent out emails encouraging the contractors and their colleagues to think of the company as a family, and that organizing wasn’t necessary.
Contracting sucks for several reasons. If you work with the wrong company it is ugly. The main reason is all your hours are billed against the "contract" and if you aren't working, the contract isn't making money. If the terms of the contract don't allow for time off then it is costing the contracting company money.
When I started a contract last time it was 15 days until my wife was due. I had several meetings with HR at the contracting company about granting me 3 days off in advance of the birth as part of onboarding. Ultimately I was allowed to "go into debt" with my PTO to be there for the birth of my child. Many contract companies don't offer PTO, and they tell employees that up front (or should!). It sucked. Spoiler, I don't work for Nintendo. The specifics of time off are generally handled by the Contracting company and not the Employer.
Contracting is a greasy business. I don't understand the hit pieces on Nintendo, I doubt there are too many employers willing to stipulate to contractors how to run their business because if the employer was willing to take on that risk in the first place they wouldn't be using a contractor to bring in bodies. The headhunters working for contract firms who fill these contracts get paid for positions filled. Some of them are absolute gunslingers.
I guess to summarize, be realistic, and buyer beware. Pinning this on Nintendo specifically does not seem fair to me. The beauty of contracting is...there is usually another contract somewhere else!