Activision Blizzard is converting all of its temporary and contract quality assurance workers in the US to full-time employees starting on July 1st. Many of the 1,100 workers will receive a pay raise — the minimum hourly rate is going up to $20 per hour as of April 17th. As permanent employees, the workers will receive benefits and can participate in a bonus plan.
The company says bringing those workers on board as staff will bolster its development resources and increase its number of full-time employees by 25 percent. It recently converted nearly 500 other temp and contract roles across its studios to full-time positions.
The move comes in the wake of a unionization drive spearheaded by QA team members at Raven Software. Workers from across Activision Blizzard staged a walkout in December after some Raven QA contractors were laid off. The following month, QA workers at the studio announced their intention to unionize, which would make them members of the first union at a AAA gaming company in North America.
Activision declined to voluntarily recognize the Game Workers Alliance union and shuffled some people to other departments. Executives also tried to convince workers not to form a union by questioning the benefits of organizing. Nevertheless, the Raven QA workers pressed forward with their plans and have filed for a union election through the National Labor Relations Board.
“Whether Raven workers choose to unionize has nothing to do with the salary increases elsewhere for Activision’s QA workers," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Bloomberg. The spokesperson added that Raven workers won't be eligible for the pay initiatives “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act.”
Microsoft, which has agreed a deal to buy the company for $68.7 billion, said last month it respected the right of Activision Blizzard employees "to choose whether to be represented by a labor organization and we will honor those decisions."
Workers at Activision Blizzard have been pressuring leadership on other fronts. Many staged a walkout this week after it lifted COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The company clarified it would allow its studios to set their own return-to-office policies.
Elsewhere, the company is the subject of multiple ongoing harassment and misconduct lawsuits. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision Blizzard last July, accusing the company of discrimination against female employees and fostering a "frat boy culture." A wrongful death suit and a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit from an individual plaintiff have also been filed over the last month or so. Last week, a judge ordered Activision Blizzard to pay $18 million to settle a federal suit that accused it of enabling a sexist and discriminatory environment.
Activision Blizzard isn't the only major company in the gaming sector that's hiring temp and contract QA workers into permanent roles. In February, Epic Games said it would offer most of its US-based QA workers full-time positions.
Here's the full statement Activision Blizzard provided to Engadget:
Across Activision Blizzard, we are bringing more content to players across our franchises than ever before. As a result, we are 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.
Therefore, today we announced the conversion of all US-based temporary and contingent QA team members at Activision Publishing (AP) and Blizzard — nearly 1,100 people in total — to permanent full-time employees starting July 1. Additionally, we are increasing the minimum hourly rate for these team members to $20/hr or more effective April 17. These employees also will be eligible to participate in the company’s bonus plan and will have access to full company benefits.
This change follows a process that began last year across AP and Blizzard of converting temporary and contingent employees, including 500 at AP’s studios, to permanent full-time employees.
Update 4/7 3:12PM ET: Added clarification about the impact on Raven workers.