Amid employee walkout, Activision Blizzard changes course on vaccines

Activision Blizzard employees walked off the job Monday to protest changes to the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Previously, the video game publisher required employees working together in person to be vaccinated. On Thursday, he emailed staff and said that would no longer be the case. A group of workers organized and announced the walkout on Friday, leading to a slight concession from management the same day.

The company has since adjusted its announcement by giving agency to individual studios, which are now free to “determine the processes and policies that work best for their employees and locations based on local conditions and risks.” The baseline for the company going forward, however, will be that vaccines aren’t necessary.

Blizzard Entertainment is an Activision Blizzard studio that will maintain its vaccine requirement “for at least the next few months,” according to an email sent to Blizzard staff and reported by Bloomberg writer Jason Schreier.

Monday’s walkout focused on two demands, revised from the three initials with which it was announced: that Activision Blizzard make working from home a fair option for all workers and that it revoke the mandate of vaccination lifted for all studios.

“We had 115 people attend our virtual walkout,” a representative from the ABK Workers Alliance told Polygon. “Most people have chosen not to be on campus due to an increase in COVID transmission in our area. ABK also did not allow people to take paid time off for this walkout, which is a break from their past behavior.

In response to the walkout, Activision Blizzard provided the following statement to Polygon:

The health and safety of our employees is at the forefront of everything we do, including our return to office policy. Although Activision Blizzard’s vaccination mandate in the United States has been lifted, for the majority of our employees, we are still operating under a voluntary back-to-work opportunity. Additionally, employees who are not comfortable returning to the office are encouraged to work with their manager and our HR team to explore work accommodation options that suit their individual situation. We will continue to monitor the conditions and make adjustments to the policy as needed.

We recognize that some employees may participate in a walkout to express their views. The company supports the right of our employees to express their opinions in a safe and non-threatening manner, and will not retaliate for any decision to participate in this walkout. The company also hopes that those who come out will behave in a legal, safe and non-violent manner.

Activision Blizzard currently uses a “voluntary return to office” policy, with workers free to work from home or the office at their own discretion. But that may change in the future, as management highlights the “benefits of in-person collaboration,” according to the leaked original email.

Employees at various studios tell Polygon they are concerned for the health and safety of their co-workers and their families. A Blizzard Entertainment employee told Polygon that she thinks it’s possible to return to the office, but it shouldn’t put workers at risk.

“Up until this email, the path set by management was one of observed caution and safety, allowing people across the organization to not only collaborate, but also successfully launch extensions. of several of the company’s flagship titles, while working from home,” she said. noted. “To see such an abrupt change in policy without any prior warning only demonstrates their commitment to complying with the recommended minimum guidelines, in a hasty attempt to return to the office life of a pre-pandemic world.”

Another employee told Polygon that he was concerned about the much higher cost for some employees to always be in the office, especially quality assurance and customer service roles, which are notoriously poorly paid.

“Parents of younger children will be forced to take their child to daycare, which is expensive and could further increase the risk of infection,” the worker said. “Gas prices are rising and most affordable housing is miles from offices.”

Some video game studios have adopted working from home as a permanent option for workers – a move that some say has made the industry fairer. This means that workers no longer have to uproot their lives and move to expensive cities to work on big games. However, some places are less flexible and, like tech companies such as Apple, workers aren’t thrilled with the change — at least not yet, as COVID-19 continues to spread through communities around the world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, hundreds of Americans are dying from COVID-19 every day. While the overall numbers are trending lower, experts suggest a new wave has already started in the United States. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are increasing in Asia and Europe.