Activision Blizzard will convert all US-based game testers on temporary contracts to full-time employees, with an improved $20/hour salary and access to full company benefits.
Almost 1100 staff will benefit from the change from 1st January – although this will not apply to staff at Call of Duty studio Raven who are currently seeking unionisation.
Activision has said it is “prohibited from making new kinds of compensation changes at Raven at this time” due to “legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act” (thanks, The Verge).
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The move follows months of employee action surrounding the rights of contract-based QA workers, who are employed en masse to test Activision’s never-ending array of Call of Duty content.
Just before Christmas, Activision laid off a third of QA staff attached to Raven.
Activision confirmed its changes in an email shared with employees last night, and said that the way Call of Duty was now released – via an “always on” model – had prompted this change.
“During the last two years, Call of Duty has expanded and evolved,” Activsion exec Josh Taub wrote. “Our development cycles have gone from an annual release to an ‘always on’ model. In response to greater engagement, we’ve increased our live services business across all platforms. Our offerings now encompass season passes, operators, and the awesome content available in our stores. We’ve also grown our workforce and support across our studios, along with exciting new plans on mobile.
“In light of these changes, and as we look to our ambitious plans for the future, we are further refining how our development teams work together. QA is, and continues to be, critical to our development success. We have amazing QA teams in place that work hard to ensure our players have the best possible gaming experiences – thank you!”
But in a statement to The Verge, Communications Workers of America secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said the changes were a clear result for staff who had spoken out.
“Make no mistake, all credit for Activision Blizzard’s latest move to give all temporary and contingent QA team members full-time employment and a raise should go to the workers who have been organizing, mobilising and speaking out,” Steffens said.
“It’s especially galling then that Activision has excluded Raven Software QA workers, who have been at the forefront of this effort, from these benefits. The company’s assertion that the National Labor Relations Act prevents them from including Raven workers is clearly an effort to divide workers and undermine their effort to form a union (Game Workers Alliance – CWA). Activision’s disingenuous announcement is further evidence of the need for workers to have a protected voice on the job. We strongly urge Activision Blizzard to rectify this situation and respect Raven QA workers’ protected right to organise under the law.”
Workers alliance ABetterABK also responded on Twitter:
We are overjoyed to announce that today, ABK has declared that 1,100 Quality Assurance testers will be converted to full time employment and will receive a pay raise, effectively making their wages $20/hour.
— ABetterABK ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) April 7, 2022
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Fortnite maker Epic Games similarly made all of its temporary QA staff into full-time employees earlier this year.
This week, some Activision staff were striking again – this time against the company’s decision to drop its vaccine mandate and encourage employees back into offices.