Bobby Kotick announced today that Activision Blizzard will recognise Raven Software’s union of quality assurance testers. He promised that “we will engage in good faith negotiations to enter into a collective bargaining agreement” with Communications Workers of America.
The letter was sent to all Activision Blizzard employees. It mentioned that the company had increased pay (while denying them to union organisers) and converted contract testers to full time (a move that was also accompanied by major layoffs). The letter also emphasised that the publisher had started to integrate QA into the development process, a move that was criticised by CWA as an attempt to separate union members. Activision Blizzard did not return a request for comment by the time of publication.
It’s hard to tell how “good faith” these contract negotiations will be. Before the QA testers at Raven Software won their historic union vote, the publisher had been doing everything it could to avoid this outcome. An exec sent a company-wide email regarding the “consequences” of unionizing, and a labour board found “merit” in claims that Activision Blizzard had been retaliating against employees for discussing their working conditions. The company had also forced a vote with the labour board instead of recognising the union outright. The bargaining process can often be drawn out and contentious, so CWA still faces many challenges ahead.
Activision Blizzard’s announcement came after Microsoft announced that it would work with unions. CEO Phil Spencer emphasised that Xbox did not currently have a relationship with the union, but said that he would recognise the union when the acquisition deal closed.
Jessica Gonzalez, an organiser with the labour advocacy group A Better ABK, told the New York Times that “[the union vote] is going to be the spark that ignites the rest of the industry, I believe.” She was right. Earlier this week, the contractors who work on BioWare games voted unanimously to form a labour union. The Edmonton-based testers specifically thanked “the brave workers across North America who are fighting for a better workplace.”