Edge reports that Microsoft's UK-based Rare studio is shifting from using permanent art staff to contract workers. According to Edge's sources, the studio is making a calculated move to narrowly dodge a "full consultation process" under European Union employment laws, whereby layoffs of twenty or more employees need to be announced at least thirty days before the first dismissal. Rare is reportedly in the process of cutting 19 staff, reducing its current art department of 42 employees to 23.

The remaining 23 full-time employees (or fewer) -- supposedly more than 20 staffers have already taken the "very generous voluntary redundancy packages" -- will now fill new managerial positions, "in name or fact," according to a source, meaning that "the actual artists" will all be contractors in the future. The long term play here is to avoid paying wages during downtime (cutting contractors is a lot easier than laying off full-timers) and to wriggle out of pesky, strict European employment legislation. A contract worker needs two years of employment in a position to have the same rights as a full-time employee in the region.

Now, we have to wonder: After all the artists are converted, who's next?

This article was originally published on Joystiq.