Activision Blizzard making temporary QA workers full-time, with pay raise and benefits
But members of the fledgling Raven QA union are left out
Activision Blizzard yesterday announced that they're converting temporary QA staff in the US to full-time employees, with a pay raise and benefits to boot. Worker groups are celebrating this as a victory in their ongoing mission to force the company to improve the workplace. But one group are left out: the Raven QA staff who are currently forming a union. Actiblizz say labour law requires they do this; unions say it's an attempt to punish and divide them.
In an e-mail to staff yesterday (republished on Polygon), Activision Blizzard announced that they are converting all US-based temporary and contingent QA workers to full-time employees. This comes with full company benefits, access to the company bonus scheme, and a pay raise to a minimum of $20 per hour. This is a bump up from $17/hour, a rate only gained a few months ago. Before that, according to the ABK Workers Alliance (aka ABetterAKB), most of QA were on $13 or $15 per hour, depending on location. This is good, and overdue.
In a Twitter thread, the ABK Workers Alliance said they were "overjoyed" with the announcement, claiming that it benefits 1100 people.
"A year ago, we made a promise to make A Better ABK," they continued. "Little by little, we are accomplishing that goal. This is the power of collective action. When you work with your co-workers for the betterment of your workplace, the impossible becomes possible."
It is great news. But this being Activision Blizzard, it's no surprise there's a bummer attached. The Game Workers Alliance (GWA), a fledgling union of Raven Software QA currently forming under the Communications Workers Of America (CWA), are excluded from changes.
Activision Blizzard say this is unrelated to the unionisation attempt. "Due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, we cannot institute new pay initiatives at Raven at this time, because they would be new kinds of compensation changes," the company told Polygon. Unions think they're playing games.
"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," said the CWA's CODE-CWA group. "Activision's disingenuous announcement is further evidence of the need for workers to have a protected voice on the job. We strongly urge Activision Blizzard to rectify this situation and respect Raven QA workers' protected right to organize under the law."
The Raven crew said that they too are "thrilled with today's news". They say the decision is down to groups like the ABK Workers Alliance organising, addding that it "proves our collective organizing efforts work, and we won't stop." But they claim "[Activision Blizzard]'s decision to exclude us—the workers of the Game Workers Alliance—is their attempt to divide workers & undermine our right to unionize". They add, "The company's assertion that the NLRA prevents Activision from including Raven QA workers is simply a ploy to punish us for choosing to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow workers as GWA."
They're still trying to formally unionise, a process which began with a walkout then weeks-long strike following QA layoffs. Activision Blizzard declined to voluntarily recognise the union, so they're petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for a vote. Microsoft, who are currently in the process of buying Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, said they will honour the outcome. Some US senators have expressed concerns about potential impact on workers, and about how the CEO whose tenure has seen so many stinking messes might leave with a "golden parachute" worth millions of dollars.
Let's not forget the many lawsuits and reports alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination, and staff demanding the CEO go, and the protest over lifting office Covid restrictions, and... in all this, it's important to remember that Activision Blizzard aren't the only games company like this. They're simply the latest in the spotlight. And it's thanks to workers organising that they're staying in the spotlight.