After months of resistance, Activision Blizzard has announced that it will recognize the Game Workers Alliance and begin “good faith negotiations” with its parent union, Communications Workers of America, to reach a collective agreement with the 27 quality assurance workers at Raven Software. Quality control officials announced their intention to unionize (opens in new tab) under the CWA as the Game Workers Alliance in January, after a attack (opens in new tab) which began in December 2021 to protest planned layoffs.
“We began this process after major investments in our QA team members over the past two years, including a significant starting salary increase for QA specialists and the conversion of more than 1,100 temporary and QA contingents from USA for full-time positions,” said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotic in a message to employees (opens in new tab).
“This conversion is providing access to comprehensive company benefits for QA employees and their eligible dependents. In addition, we have expanded access to performance bonuses for QA employees and opportunities for learning and development. more seamlessly into the game development process, increased collaboration that results in better products for our players and more opportunities for our teams.”
It’s a big positive step for the Raven union, but the ABK Workers Alliance said in response to the statement that the “large investments” announced by Kotick “were made as concessions to increasing pressure from employees to try to stop unionization.”
A reminder that all the “major investments” that were made were made as concessions to the increasing pressure from employees to try to prevent unionization from taking place. Employees’ quality of life improves through collective action. https://t.co/pnbjLDvaOgJune 10, 2022
Until today’s announcement, Blizzard has indeed resisted unionization efforts: the company refused (opens in new tab) to voluntarily recognize the union and challenged the National Labor Relations Board’s subsequent filing, saying that any union should encompass all Raven employees and not just the QA department. When the NLRB decided that the union vote could proceed either way, Activision Blizzard said that “a direct relationship with team members is the best way to achieve individual and company goals, and that it was reviewing its legal options to a possible recourse (opens in new tab).
In May, Raven QA employees voted overwhelmingly to unionize (opens in new tab)and a few days later Microsoft’s Xbox boss Phil Spencer said that the company will not oppose unionization efforts (opens in new tab) if and when the acquisition of Activision Blizzard is completed. That may have been the signal for Kotick and company. it was time to stop playing around: Microsoft said in a 2021 SEC filing (opens in new tab) that both companies would continue to operate independently until the purchase is completed, but with Microsoft so clearly stating that it will not fight the union, continued resistance from Activision Blizzard’s current leadership would be futile and potentially irritating to the new boss.
It’s also fair to note that, in the absence of any realistic avenues of appeal, there was nothing else Activision Blizzard could do: with the union voted on and established under the authority of the NLRB, the company is legally obligated to recognize and deal with it.
Happy union day! We won! pic.twitter.com/nzJ4A3J3RBMay 23, 2022
Ironically, the salary increase that Kotick mentioned as part of Activision Blizzard’s “big investment” in quality control employees doesn’t apply to Raven’s unionized workers “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act,” the company said. said in april (opens in new tab). Now that the union is established, any salary increases or other changes to benefits will have to be negotiated, and that could take a while: Kotick said in his statement that “first employment contracts may take some time to complete.”
“We welcome the news that Activision is ready to begin contract negotiations with Raven Quality Assurance employees,” CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens said in an emailed statement to PC Gamer. . “This is a positive step towards labor relations at Activision. Raven workers remained united in their fight for union representation and a collective bargaining agreement.
“We know that the management approach recommended by anti-union consultants is ineffective and harmful, and we hope that today’s announcement will be the first of many steps towards full collaboration between ABK leadership and employees to positively shape the future of Activision through of a strong union contract.”