After months of striking and general workplace malaise, Activision-Blizzard will be converting all of their contract Quality Assurance (QA) workers into full-time employees. Those eligible for the promotion will receive benefits and a pay raise starting at $20 an hour.
An email from Josh Taub, the chief operating officer of Activision Publishing, obtained by Polygon states that “[t]his 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 explains that the change was caused by the growth of the Call of Duty IP, as the change to an “always on” model of season passes and constant updates have required more help than ever before.
The letter also mentions Activision-Blizzard’s desire to hire external support studios during particularly difficult periods of development.
Blizzard head Mike Ybarra, who gained the position after the departure of Jen Oneal and the forced removal of J. Allen Brack, also sent a letter to staff. Ybarra mentions various meetings with QA testers over the past six months, and how they educated him in how vital QA is in making Blizzard “the best player-focused game studio.”
Both emails fail to mention Raven Software, a QA studio within the Activision-Blizzard family who have unionized following layoffs in December. Activision-Blizzard failed to recognize their union, named the Game Workers Alliance Union, back in January.
In a statement released to gamesindustry.biz, a representative of Activision-Blizzard claims the conversion of QA testers to full-time employees has nothing to do with Raven’s efforts. “The Raven situation is limited to Raven,” it continues. “The testers whose contracts weren’t extended were welcome then, and now, to apply for any jobs at the company.”
Still, no employees at Raven Software will be receiving a pay raise as part of this initiative, which is apparently “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act,” according to an email Bloomberg obtained. The same email further affirms that the change in company policy has nothing to do with Raven.
In a statement released to Fanbyte by Sara Steffens, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Communication Workers of America (CWA)—who represent the GWAU—believes the pay raise is a way for Activision-Blizzard to “divide workers and undermine their effort to form a union.”
Although the lawsuit from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been settled for $18 million, Activision-Blizzard still faces other lawsuits over a culture of company harassment and claims of poor leadership.