Activision Blizzard Is Converting 1,100 QA Staff To Full-Time And Raising Base Wages

About 1,100 Activision Publishing and Blizzard workers are being converted from temporary to full-time, while base pay is going up to at least $20/hour.

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Changes have been announced for some workers at Activision Publishing and Blizzard that will see nearly 1,100 US-based temporary QA workers converted to full time. On top of this, the publisher is raising its minimum hourly rates for QA positions to $20/hour. According to Bloomberg, Activision not will not provide raises to the QA testers at Raven who are moving to form a union. This is "due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act," the company said.

As a result of the conversions, Activision Publishing's full-time staff will grow by 25%. Before this, Activision Publishing announced that 500 temporary QA workers were converted to full-time.

The announcement of these changes comes after workers went on strike and raised various concerns and other labor issues in the past year. Another element that could be at play here are the ongoing unionization efforts at the company, and it's unclear what impact--if any--this might have on that.

Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard, but it is understood that the company would have no say in these matters until the deal closes in 2023, as it's expected to. Recently, a group of US Senators--including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren--said they were "deeply concerned" about Microsoft's proposed buyout.

The FTC is reportedly looking into Activision Blizzard's labor issues, in particular, as part of its probe into the Microsoft/Activision Blizzard deal. Whether or not these newly announced changes are in response to the FTC's probe, however, is unknown.

ABK Workers Alliance, the group that advocates for workers at Activision Blizzard King, has not reacted or responded specifically to this news. However, founder Jessica Gonzalez retweeted a tweet calling these changes a "big win" for workers at Activision and Blizzard.

The CWA union released a statement to Kotaku in which it said the move to exclude Raven QA staff is "galling."

"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, mobilizing, and speaking out," CWA secretary-treasurer Sara 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."

In response to the CWA, a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard said the CWA's assertion here is "both wrong and disingenuous."

"It is well known that, during an election petition period, the law prevents an employer from extending new kinds of benefits to employees who are going to be voting. See National Labor Relations Board v. Exchange Parts Co., 375 U.S. 405 (1964), and the associated cases, for discussion of these rules. The CWA is blaming us for trying to comply with the law by pretending the law does not exist," a spokesperson told GameSpot.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Activision said it is "refining how our teams work together to develop our games and deliver the best possible experiences for our players."

"We have ambitious plans for the future and our Quality Assurance (QA) team members are a critical part of our development efforts," the spokesperson said.

The conversions to full-time will take place starting July 1, while the increase in pay to a $20/hour minimum starts on April 17. What's more, Activision said the workers converted from temporary to full-time will be eligible for "full" company benefits and the company's bonus scheme.

In a memo to staff shared with GameSpot, Activision Publishing chief operating officer Josh Taub said that Call of Duty specifically has undergone a significant change in recent years to an "always on" model. To meet the demands of players, Taub said converting temporary QA workers to full-time will be "critical to our development success."

For Blizzard, studio boss Mike Ybarra said the conversions from contract to full-time will help deliver games at the "Blizzard quality" level that fans have come to expect. "We have amazing QA talent, and I'm very happy to make this change so that we can focus and deliver for players around the globe," he said.

One of Activision's next big releases is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which launches this year alongside a new Warzone experience.

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