Activision moves full-time QA staff amid union push

Captain Price from Call of Duty Modern Warfare pulls a cigar after seeing the workers take it away.

Picture: Activision

Activision Blizzard has announced a big win for its part-time developers today as he battles an ongoing union push at one of the major studios behind Call of Duty: Warzone. Contract QA staff across the company will be converted to full-time and will also have their minimum hourly rate increased to $20. This is a big deal for some in the gaming industry most abused workersbut in a twist, the new increases will not apply to workers who are currently unionizing.

“I am pleased to announce that we are converting all U.S.-based temporary and contingent QA workers to full-time employees (FTEs),” Activision Publishing CEO Josh Taub told staff in an email that the company later provided to news outlets. “We are increasing their hourly rate to a minimum of $20/hr and giving them access to all company benefits, and they will be eligible to participate in the company bonus program.”

A similar email was sent to Blizzard staff by the Surveillance manufacturer president, Mike Ybarra. “Our ability to deliver great games at the level of ‘Blizzard quality’ our players have come to expect is critical to ensuring we exceed player expectations,” he wrote. The move affects 90 part-time employees at Blizzard offices in Irvine, Austin and Albany, and 1,100 total quality assurance testers across the company, Activision Blizzard said.

Notably, however, the wage changes will not apply to the company’s quality assurance workers who are currently trying to unionize “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act”, said a spokesperson. Told Bloomberg.

The move to full-time comes nine months after allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse at work surfaced for the first time Call of Duty editor, and just months into its fight to stop quality assurance staff at its Raven Software studio in Wisconsin from unionizing. The developers there organized with the Communication Workers Of America in January and asked Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize their union, but the company refused. Instead, the company chose to force a vote with the National Labor Relations Board and is currently asking that it include everyone in the studio rather than just quality assurance staff, an outcome that would likely condemn unionization.

Activision Blizzard said today’s announcement had nothing to do with those workforce efforts. “This conversion of nearly 1,100 QA workers at Activision and Blizzard has nothing to do with the ongoing petition at the Raven studio,” a spokesperson said. told “Raven’s situation is limited to Raven. Testers whose contracts were not extended were welcome then, and now, to apply for any job in the company. »

A CWA spokesperson, however, disagreed. “Make no mistake about it, all credit for Activision Blizzard’s latest decision to give all temporary and contingent QA team members full-time employment and a raise should go to workers who have organized, mobilized and spoke out,” Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens said. in a report. “It’s particularly infuriating that Activision has excluded Raven Software’s quality assurance workers, who have been at the forefront of this effort, of these benefits. The company’s claim that national labor relations law prevents them from including Raven workers is clearly an effort to divide workers and undermine their efforts to form a union.

war zone and other Call of Duty the games were criticized by fans in recent months for performance and quality issues. Raven’s workers’ organization said last year that development efforts would be hampered by Activision Blizzard’s decision to lay off more than a dozen quality assurance employees in late January rather than convert them to full-time.

The company is also currently awaiting a shareholder vote to approve its recently announced sale to Microsoft for $69 billion. The tech giant said so wouldn’t bother of any possible unionization agreement reached in the meantime. The FTC, which must also approve the acquisition, would have consider the potential impact on workers’ ability to unionize in their decision.

Updated: 04/07/22, 3:47 PM ET: Added statement from CWA and more context around Raven QA’s exclusion from Activision’s new $20 minimum hourly rate.