Some Activision Blizzard employees will quit their jobs on Monday after the company dropped its vaccine mandate ahead of a return to work in the coming months. News of the relaxed COVID-19 plan was leaked on social media following an email from Activision Blizzard Director Brian Bulatao.
In the email, Bulatao said vaccines were no longer required for employees to return to the office, effective immediately. Activision Blizzard employees are expected to return to work in the coming months, although this immediately impact on those currently working in the office. Bulatao cited the lifting of vaccine requirements “in the United States” as COVID-19 cases surge in Asia and Europe, according to Vox. Some experts suggest that a new wave is coming – or has already started – in the United States, the New York Times reported.
Following Bulatao’s email, some Activision Blizzard staff began to publicly object to the dropped requirement. The ABK Workers Alliance, a group that formed following Activision Blizzard’s initial sexual harassment lawsuit last year and has handled several walkouts since then, announced the walkout on Friday – it is expected to take place on Monday April 4. A representative of the group did not have an estimate of the number of participants.
The group is calling on Activision Blizzard to reverse the scrapped vaccination requirement, offer remote work as a “permanent solution,” and allow workers to make those work-from-home decisions individually. Supporters and participants can follow the walkout using two hashtags: #SickOfThis and #GameWorkersUnite.
“As part of their return to power, Blizzard and Activision Blizzard held several feedback sessions and polls over the course of three months, at the end of which they decided to make the vaccine mandatory for workers entering the job,” said one. representative of ABK Workers Alliance. Polygon. “That was the agreement under which people agreed to come back. This recent change was not led by any employee before it was announced.
The representative added that the management of the studio was neither informed nor consulted. “This reversal puts people at risk of infection. I and many other employees are angry that our company is pushing for mandatory returns to the office with the lifting of this restriction.
Activision Blizzard employees went off the job multiple times in 2021, the first of which took place in July 2021 following the company’s ‘abhorrent and insulting’ response to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit, which uncovered serious allegations of sexism and harassment at the World of Warcraft and the Call of Duty publisher. The workers left calls for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotickthe following November a Wall Street Journal report detailing Kotick’s alleged involvement in downplaying reports of employee misconduct.
In December, Activision Blizzard the workers left after saying that a number of QA workers had been fired. The walkout led to a strike that ended when workers announced a union effort at the company. These workers, called Game Workers Allianceare awaiting a decision from the National Labor Relations Board regarding the potential scope of the union.
Update: Following the walkout announcement, Bulatao sent a second email to Activision Blizzard employees in which he wrote that despite the company-wide policy, executives at Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King can “determine the processes and policies that work best for their employees and locations based on local conditions and risks.
Bloomberg Reporter Jason Schreier tweeted that Blizzard President Mike Ybarra emailed staff shortly after, saying that Blizzard would maintain its vaccine requirements “for at least the next few months.”
A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard also provided the following statement in an email to Polygon:
The health and safety of our employees is at the forefront of everything we do, including our return to office policy. Although Activision Blizzard’s vaccination mandate in the United States has been lifted, for the majority of our employees, we are still operating under a voluntary back-to-work opportunity. Additionally, employees who are not comfortable returning to the office are encouraged to work with their manager and our HR team to explore work accommodation options that suit their individual circumstances. We will continue to monitor the conditions and make adjustments to the policy as needed.
We recognize that some employees may participate in a walkout to express their views. The company supports the right of our employees to express their opinions in a safe and non-threatening manner, and will not retaliate for any decision to participate in this walkout. The company also hopes that those who come out will behave in a legal, safe and non-violent manner.