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Amid a unionization effort by Quality Assurance (QA) employees at a subsidiary, Activision Blizzard units Activision Publishing and Blizzard said on Thursday that they are converting all U.S.-based temporary and contingent QA workers to full-time employees. The change is being accompanied by a pay raise, with these workers’ minimum hourly rates rising to at least $20 an hour.
According to the company, the change will affect nearly 1,100 workers across Activision Blizzard who were previously temporary and contingent (not all QA workers at Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment fall into this category). As a result of the change, eligible QA workers will now have access to company benefits and bonus plans. The change will take effect on July 1.
Activision Publishing COO Josh Taub and Blizzard head Mike Ybarra announced the change to employees in emails on Thursday. “This change follows the conversion of nearly 500 temporary and contingent workers to permanent full-time employees at Activision Publishing’s studios, and other ongoing conversions that have taken place in the past few months,” Taub said in the note. He added that his unit will be “adding extra support for our team from external partners” as their Call of Duty workload shifts.
Ybarra said in his message, “We all know QA is integral to our success in ensuring the best possible gameplay experiences.” Ybarra added, “We have amazing QA talent, and I’m very happy to make this change so that we can focus and deliver for players around the globe.”
QA workers are playing an important role in Activision Blizzard’s first major unionization effort at subsidiary Raven Software, where QA workers are attempting to unionize with labor giant the Communications Workers of America. In January the workers filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board after Activision Blizzard declined to voluntarily recognize the group. The move also followed an “organizational change” of QA workers at Raven Software that was designed to “embed” quality-assurance workers in various teams. At the time, the CWA called this restructuring “nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA workers who are exercising their right to organize.” In February, the worker group and Activision Blizzard debated the composition of the proposed Raven Software bargaining unit in a multi-day NLRB hearing.
The QA workers union at Raven Software, dubbed the Game Workers Alliance, has said that priorities with the unionization drive include tackling “unfair working conditions, unfair compensation practices, and sexual abuse and misconduct across the company.” A larger number of Activision Blizzard employees are currently organizing than those in the Raven Software QA department, THR has previously reported.
In a statement about the conversion, CWA secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said in a statement that she gives “all credit” to Activision Blizzard for converting temporary and contingent workers to full-time employees, but adds, “and a raise should go to the workers who have been organizing, mobilizing and speaking out.” She continues, “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).” She called Activision’s announcement “disingenuous” and “further evidence of the need for workers to have a protected voice on the job.”
Activision Blizzard confirmed that the pay raise will not be applied to Raven Software QA workers, who are all already full-time, receive company benefits and have access to its bonus program. “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 said in a statement.
On Thursday, the Activision Blizzard worker group ABK Workers Alliance tweeted that they were “overjoyed” by the announcement. They added, “A year ago, we made a promise to make A Better ABK. 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.”
Activision Blizzard’s change follows Epic Games’ similar shift earlier this year, when the company began converting contingent U.S.-based QA testers and other contract-based employees to full-time employees.
April 7, 1:25 p.m. Updated with the CWA’s statement and Activision Blizzard’s statement on the union’s remarks.
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