Video games company agrees to let staff guide use of AI; Hasbro cuts 20% of its workforce

In our round-up of HR news this week - not even Christmas can save employees at Hasbro; video game staff will decide how AI is implemented; Microsoft says it'll stay neutral on unions calls:

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Dec 14, 2023
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

ZeniMax union to guide company’s adoption of AI

In a deal that has been described as the first of its kind at a major technology company, video games company, ZeniMax, has agreed to allow union members to guide the company’s use of AI in the workplace. The agreement – struck between it and ZeniMax Workers United-Communication Workers of America (CWA) – commits ZeniMax to “human-centred AI implementations,” which “augment human ingenuity and capacities” and “enhance worker productivity, growth, and satisfaction without causing workers harm”. It is also bound to six “guiding principles” of AI: fairness, reliability and safety, privacy and security, inclusivity, transparency, and accountability. Zenimax must provide notice to the union where AI implementation “may impact the work of union members” and “bargain those impacts upon request,” the CWA added. CWA president Claude Cummings Jr. said: “Worker input is critical for ensuring AI is human-centred, and this legally-binding agreement will help protect both workers and consumers from potential harms.” ZeniMax Workers United-CWA member and id Software QA tester Dylan Burton said: “It’s hard to say how developments with AI may impact our work, but now we can be more confident that the agreement will help to protect us as we navigate the potential adoption of AI into our workflow.” He added: “It is crucial that all workers have a voice in what role AI plays in their work and can hold their employers accountable for the impacts of its use.”

Toy maker, Hasbro, to cut 20% of its workforce

The traditional pre-Christmas sales boost will not, it seems, be enough to rescue troubled toy maker, Hasbro, which this week announced it would be cutting 20% of its headcount. Hasbro, which makes classic boardgames including Monopoly, Cluedo, Dungeons & Dragons, as well as figures including Action Man, My Little Pony, Power Rangers and Transformers, will be laying off around 1,100 staff globally over the next six months. Hasbro is also opting not to renew its lease on its office in Providence, Rhode Island, with its workers expected to transition to the company’s headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The decision comes after softer-than-anticipated toy sales through the first nine months of 2023, with the difficulties expected to continue into next year. In a statement, Hasbro CEO, Chris Cocks said: “I know this news is especially difficult during the holiday season.” He added there was “no sugar-coating how hard this is, particularly for the employees directly affected.” The losses follow a fourth quarterly loss in a row, with third-quarter sales falling by 10%. The firm is aiming to make savings of $300 million.

Judge rules 9,000 staff are able to sue Disney

Some 9,000 female employees of entertainment giant, Disney, have been given the go-ahead by a judge to bring a class-action pay disparity lawsuit. According to Variety, the women, who work across Disneyland hotels and theme parks, the cruise line, the Disney film and TV studios plus other units, are claiming there is a disparity between men’s and women’s pay. “Disney has been gaslighting these women for four years. They love their jobs. They love the brand. But they want to be respected and treated the way they should be in the workplace,” said Lori Andrus, the plaintiffs’ attorney. Andrus claims female employees have across-the-board starting salaries that are 2% less than men’s. Disney has said it is “disappointed” with the court’s ruling pertaining to the Equal Pay Act, and says it will now be “considering our options.” According to HRWorld, both sides have now retained experts, which will either prove or disprove the gender pay gap being alleged. If the matter goes to court, a trial is expected to be held before October next year.

Microsoft strikes deal to remain ‘neutral’ on unionization

IT behemoth, Microsoft, has agreed to take a neutral stance on efforts by unions to encourage workers to become members. According to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, the deal, between it and the AFL-CIO union federation – the largest federation of unions, representing 12.5 million workers – accords “clarity as to how we’ll work with the AFL-CIO and its affiliates if we have employees or even employees of suppliers who want to pursue the formation of a union.” AFL-CIO president, Liz Shuler, was quick to praise Microsoft’s position – which is in stark contrast to most other tech companies, who tend to aggressively oppose any moves to unionization. “Their positioning is –j if workers want to organize – that we shouldn’t stand in their way,” Shuler said. “[Usually] every company basically fights us when workers want to organize.” According to Reuters, Microsoft previously agreed to a legally-binding labor neutrality agreement when Activision Blizzard employees expressed interest in joining a union as part of Microsoft’s acquisition of the company. It is also being reported that in the same deal, an agreement has been reached between Microsoft and the AFL-CIO union federation to design AI “with the needs of workers in mind and for workers to have a voice and provide feedback that influences the direction this technology takes.”

Top earnings per employee list revealed

Meta has been revealed to make the most money per employee according to research by Invezz – hitting a whopping $1.5 million in earnings per employee (based on a gross profit of $100,356 billion in 2023, created from its 66,185 employees). Meta was ahead of Visa, which was revealed to earn $1.1 million per employee, which was itself ahead of third-placed Alphabet (Google), which raked in $1.04 million per employee. Other notable entries were 4th placed Apple (1.03 million earned per employee); 7th placed Microsoft ($636,962 per employee), and 9th-placed Tesla ($191,349). Amazon came in 10th, with $166,257 made per employee. Commenting on the data, Harsh Vardhan, chief editor at said: “The significant variation in earnings per employee, ranging from Meta’s remarkable $1.516 million to Amazon’s $166,256.98, highlights not just the diverse business models and sectors these companies operate in, but also their operational efficiency and the value each employee adds to the company’s bottom line.” He added: “This data is a critical metric for investors and industry analysts, offering a unique perspective on the financial health and operational performance of these leading corporations.”

US employers added 200,000 jobs in November

There’s ‘still juice’ in the US labor market, according to experts. Data from the Labor Department has revealed employers added 199,000 jobs last month, with unemployment dropping too, to just 3.7%. “That’s the definition of a soft landing. It’s slowing slowly, which is what you want,” said Martin Holdrich, a senior economist with Woods & Poole Economics. However, it must also be noted that job growth has narrowed in recent months, with those sectors dependent on consumers buying physical goods declining, while service industries accounted for most gains. In November, health care added 77,000 jobs and government added 49,000. Both are employers that are less tethered to the underlying strength of the economy. Moreover, manufacturers merely added back the jobs that had been lost during the auto strikes, and have otherwise been stagnant since the beginning of the year. The retail industry actually shed 38,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, reflecting what appears to be the weakest holiday hiring season since 2013. Despite the stronger-for-longer performance of the labor market thus far, most forecasters expect a continued decline in job growth in early 2024 as consumers run through their savings, reduce spending, and the remaining pockets of labor shortage fill up.

Bank of America announces internal promotions figures

Bank of America has revealed it has promoted 334 employees to the position of managing director in the last year. This year’s cohort of new promotions, which included 75 investment bankers and 64 employees from its trading division, was smaller than in previous years (by some 8%). But on a more positive note, for the fourth consecutive year, more than 50% of those promoted comprise either people of color or women. Bank of America also promoted managing directors in other areas, including research, wealth management and enterprise credit, according to a report by Reuters. These figures follow Goldman Sachs revealing it will be promoting many of its staff in 2024. Last month the investment bank announced in an internal memo that it will promote 608 executives to managing directors next year. However, this is fewer than the 643 senior bankers it elevated two years ago.

This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.