Column: The poaching clause that sounds like a closed shop


Column: The poaching clause that sounds like a closed shop

Microscope contributor
So it looks as if Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Walt Disney and Pixar are going to have to face the prospect of a trial in a class action lawsuit claiming they conspired not to poach each other's staff, writes Billy MacInnes.

According to Reuters, a judge in San Jose California has rejected their attempt to dismiss the claims, which are being brought under the federal Sherman antitrust law and California's own version, the Cartwright Act.

This perhaps wasn't too surprising given the existence of "Do Not Cold Call" agreements among the companies which, District Judge Lucy Koh said "supports the plausible inference that the agreements were negotiated, reached, and policed at the highest levels"

She added there was a suggestion of collusion in the agreements rather than coincidence because all the "identical, bilateral agreements" were reached in secrecy in the space of two years.

Looking at it from the outside, it probably doesn't help the companies' cause to learn that they settled similar antitrust investigations against them by the Department of Justice in 2010, albeit without admitting they had done anything wrong.

Personally, I think it's a bit rich for large scale businesses to place limits on the amount of money they are prepared to pay for potential employees by restricting their potential for movement to other companies.

Imagine the outcry if they started implementing a similar policy for high level executives. Not from everybody, obviously, as most people would probably deem it a good thing if something was done to rein in the runaway salaries and bonuses of top executives in the corporate world.

If one company thinks an engineer or sales manager is so good it will pay them more money to leave their current job and jump ship, that's just the way the world goes around. In fact, it's the way of the market.

Am I alone in thinking that any scheme designed to keep employees' salaries down by companies colluding in not poaching staff from each other sounds a little bit like a closed shop? Admittedly a kind of inverted closed shop, but a closed shop nonetheless. You could think of it as a closed shop for the 21st century, along with the other closed shop, the one that seems to operate for chief executives and very high ranking executives in large corporations.

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