Update #2 3:48pm PT: An Activision Blizzard spokesperson reached out with a statement in response to the CWA statement regarding the status of the QA workers at Raven Software. The statement by the publisher calls the CWA's response "wrong and disingenuous," stating that Activision Blizzard is simply complying with existing labor laws, citing the statute. Here it is in full below.
Via Activision Blizzard:
“The union’s assertion is both wrong and disingenuous. It is well known that, during an election petition period, the law prevents an employer from extending new kinds of benefits to employees who are going to be voting. See National Labor Relations Board v. Exchange Parts Co., 375 U.S. 405 (1964), and the associated cases, for discussion of these rules. The CWA is blaming us for trying to comply with the law by pretending the law does not exist."
Original Story and Updates continue below...
A major announcement from Activision Blizzard will affect over 1000 employees. The company has announced plans to convert all temporary and contract QA workers to full-time employees and the minimum hourly pay will increase to $20 per hour as a base.
An official statement from Activision Blizzard on these changes emphasizes their likely impact on workers:
“As a result, we are refining how our teams work together to develop our games and deliver the best possible experiences for our players. We have ambitious plans for the future and our Quality Assurance (QA) team members are a critical part of our development efforts.
Therefore, today we announced the conversion of all US-based temporary and contingent QA team members at Activision Publishing (AP) and Blizzard - nearly 1,100 people in total - to permanent full-time employees starting July 1. Additionally, we are increasing the minimum hourly rate for these team members to $20/hr or more effective April 17. These employees also will be eligible to participate in the company’s bonus plan and will have access to full company benefits.
This change follows a process that began last year across AP and Blizzard of converting temporary and contingent employees, including 500 at AP’s studios, to permanent full-time employees.”
These changes follow several walkouts and strike action undertaken by workers, including an announced intent to unionize by QA workers at Raven Software. A walkout at Raven happened over the sudden layoffs of 12 contract QA workers in December, some of whom had relocated at their own expense. At the time, Activision Blizzard did point to full-time contracts that had been offered to several hundred employees and the layoffs as part of a planned reorganization.
The announcement by Activision Blizzard today to both hire all US-based QA workers as employees in July and boost pay starting this month does address some of the stated demands that led to the initial strike action, in what is a win for workers. The company still faces lawsuits and investigations over workplace conduct and harassment allegations but has gotten a recent win in court over its settlement with the US EEOC.
Strike action at Raven, and spread to other QA divisions, was later called off when Raven QA decided to unionize and gave Activision Blizzard time to voluntarily recognize their union, which the company did not. This is still pending the resolution of a case brought by the employees with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a union election. Employees say that QA alone should be able to take the vote, as they were the ones that decided to unionize, while Activision Blizzard said it believed all Raven workers should get a vote. These newly announced changes will benefit workers, and it remains to be seen what the outcome of the unionization effort will be.
This change also comes at a time when the company is preparing for acquisition by Microsoft.
Bloomberg's Jason Schreier reported that employees from Raven Software are not among the employees who would receive the pay increases, blaming "our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act".
And here's the catch: Activision will not give raises to Raven QA testers, who are unionizing, "due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act," the company said in an email seen by Bloomberg News.Story: https://t.co/fLR90gCyJL— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) April 7, 2022
Communications Workers of America followed up with a statement regarding the exclusion of Raven and blame put on their efforts to unionize:
"It’s especially galling then that Activision has excluded Raven Software QA workers, who have been at the forefront of this effort, from these benefits. The company’s assertion that the National Labor Relations Act prevents them from including Raven workers is clearly an effort to divide workers and undermine their effort to form a union (Game Workers Alliance - CWA). "