Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick announced in a Press release that the company will recognize the recently formed union at Raven Software and begin negotiations.
This news comes after months of controversy at Activision Blizzard over its handling of Raven’s layoffs and subsequent union efforts at the Call of Duty support studio. Here’s what Kotick wrote in the press release, in full:
I wanted to share the news that we will be entering into negotiations with the Communications Workers of America regarding Raven Software’s 27 quality assurance employees, the majority of whom have elected to be represented by this union. Once the elections are over, we will engage in good faith negotiations to conclude a collective agreement.
Although initial employment contracts may take some time, we will meet with CWA leaders at the bargaining table and work toward an agreement that supports the success of all of our employees, that further strengthens our commitment to creating the best place to work. , the most welcoming and inclusive in the industry. , and enhances our ability to deliver world-class games to our players.
We are beginning this process after major investments in our quality assurance team members over the past two years, including significantly increasing the starting salary of quality assurance specialists and converting more than 1,100 temporary and casual workers based in the United States in full-time positions. This conversion provides access to full benefits for QA employees and their eligible dependents. Additionally, we have expanded access to performance bonuses for quality assurance employees and learning and development opportunities. We’ve also integrated quality assurance more seamlessly into the game development process, increasing collaboration that results in better products for our players and more opportunities for our teams.
This is a time of great opportunity for our company. I want to thank you for the passion, skills and commitment you bring every day to create great games, to seize the opportunities to make it the best place to work in the industry and to connect and engage our players. of the whole world.
In December of last year, Activision Blizzard fired several members of Raven’s quality assurance team. Soon after, dozens of Raven employees went on strike. Activision Blizzard finally broke its silence on this strike, but did not formally acknowledge it. Following this, 34 QA testers agreed to form a union. Those testers asked Activision Blizzard to voluntarily acknowledge the union by Jan. 25, but hours after the deadline, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said it declined to do so, citing that both parties could not reach an agreement. You can read more about it here.
Following this, Activision Blizzard announced that it was converting all US-based QA testers to full-time employees, giving them access to all benefits and hourly wage increases. However, when asked if former contractors laid off at Raven in December would be rehired as a result of this conversion, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said. GamesIndustry.biz“This conversion of nearly 1100 QA employees at Activision and Blizzard has nothing to do with the ongoing petition at the Raven studio. The Raven situation is limited to Raven. Testers whose contracts were not extended were then and now welcome to apply for any job in the company.
Asked by Bloomberg if current Raven workers receive new wage initiatives as a result of today’s news, Activision Blizzard said they will not “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Board.” A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told the publication that “Raven’s workers choosing to unionize has nothing to do with wage increases elsewhere for Activision’s quality assurance workers.” . A statement from Game Workers Alliance (CWA) Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens received by Fanbyte called Activision Blizzard’s exclusion of Raven QA workers from this new wage initiative “an effort to divide workers and undermine their efforts to form a union.”
This led CWA to seek a vote thanks to a favorable ruling from the National Labor Relations Board. Activision Blizzard unsuccessfully challenged that process, trying to get Raven’s entire team of about 350 people — not just workers trying to unionize — to vote.
“We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether to support or vote for a union or not,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said. game informant. “We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio, which numbers approximately 350 people, should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”
This did not happen and instead the vote narrowed to 22 workers. Last month, these workers voted to unionize, successfully becoming the first video game union at a AAA studio and game publisher in the United States, and the second to form a formal union in the North American industry. of the video game. The Milwaukee branch of the National Labor Relations Board counted mail-in ballots submitted by eligible Raven employees and of 22 ballots, 19 voted yes and 3 voted no. The parties had until May 31 to file an objection, but no such objection has occurred. Today, the union is official, and now it looks like Activision Blizzard is ready to officially acknowledge it and meet it at the bargaining table.