Miffed tech workers have accused the likes of Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe of conspiring to keep down employees' pay and of avoiding poaching staff from one another in a further attempt to reduce pressure to offer decent salaries.
The lawsuit fingers Steve Jobs, who looks to have come up with the cunning ruse whilst CEO of animation outfit Pixar in 2005. Pixar colluded with Lucasfilm to shaft workers with the idea that both could thereby cut costs.
Apple and Adobe were later roped in as they too were in the business of courting software engineers and the like. Google joined in "no later than 2006", entering into in an ungentlemanly agreement not to cold-call each other's staff.
The suit filed with the California Superior Court in Alameda County seeks class action status and follows an investigation by the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice concluded in 2010. The DOJ found that the actions of the named defendants were "facially anti-competitive because they eliminated a significant form of competition to attract high tech employees, and, overall, substantially diminished competition to the detriment of the affected employees who were likely deprived of competitively important information and access to better job opportunities.”
The regulator decided not to seek compensation for those employees affected by the conspiracy, so a bunch of them have decided to go get some themselves.
"This class action challenges a conspiracy among Defendants to fix and suppress the compensation of their employees," the suit reads (pdf). "Without the knowledge or consent of their employees, Defendants’ senior executives entered into an interconnected web of express agreements to eliminate competition among them for skilled labor. This conspiracy included:
"(1) agreements not to actively recruit each other’s employees;
"(2) agreements to provide notification when making an offer to another’s employee (without the knowledge or consent of that employee); and
"(3) agreements that, when offering a position to another company’s employee, neither company would counteroffer above the initial offer."
The DOJ investigation concluded the firms and others including the likes of Intel and Intuit had been very naughty boys. It said their agreements “disrupted the normal price-setting mechanisms that apply in the labor setting.” But it let them all off if they promised not to do it any more.
Former Lucasfilm employee Siddharth Hariharan, who filed the suit said in a statement: "My colleagues at Lucasfilm and I applied our skills, knowledge, and creativity to make the company an industry leader.
"It's disappointing," he said, "that, while we were working hard to make terrific products that resulted in enormous profits for Lucasfilm, senior executives of the company cut deals with other premiere high tech companies to eliminate competition and cap pay for skilled employees,"
Hariharan is seeking restitution for the wages he should have been paid, compensation and treble damages. The suit says "tens of thousands" of workers were likely affected by the action of the colluding capitalist pig-dogs.