Employees at Activision-Blizzard, a leading video game publisher and maker of the popular games Overwatch and World Of Warcraft, have been organizing protests for weeks. Employees say they want better pay, health care benefits and job security amid financial uncertainty caused by the company’s merger with ATVI that brought Kotick back as CEO. Despite initial victories such as negotiating their own severance packages, employees are now asking again for higher wages to maintain quality healthcare coverage amidst potential layoffs.
Activision-Blizzard has partly met some worker demands, dramatically cutting Bobby Kotick’s compensation. The company is responding to the allegations with a statement that it will do what’s best for its employees and shareholders.
Activision-PR Blizzard’s staff sent a long statement from CEO Bobby Kotick at 5:15 a.m. EDT this morning, covering everything from the global pandemic to Blizzard’s ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination crisis. It’s been a year, yes. Kotick basically reiterates his previously stated view that the corporation failed its employees, but that he feels progress has been made — and that he even caves somewhat on some of the workers’ requests.
“There weren’t enough guardrails in place to guarantee that our ideals were respected everywhere.” People didn’t always feel comfortable sharing issues, and their concerns weren’t always handled immediately or appropriately in certain circumstances. People were disappointed, and I apologize profusely,” he adds. “Over the previous several years, we’ve made progress in encouraging that diversity and improving the work environment – a commitment that has grown in breadth and pace in recent months.” We’ve more than quadrupled our investment in anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training, made significant organizational changes, and significantly boosted resources for reporting and thoroughly reviewing inappropriate conduct.”
The corporation will adopt five adjustments, according to Kotick:
- A zero-tolerance harassment policy, which includes dismissal for “many […] acts of workplace misbehavior” and anybody found to have retaliated against employees for filing complaints about compliance.
- An investment of $250 million to “accelerate chances for diverse talent” and a pledge to boost the ratio of women and non-binary employees by 50%. This is a substantially greater amount than the widely-maligned $18 million initially put aside for victims and charity as part of the company’s EEOC settlement.
- The need for sexual harassment and discrimination claims to be arbitrated is waived. Workers urged that all forced arbitration agreements be repealed, not only those relating to sexual harassment and discrimination allegations.
- An yearly report with further information on pay equity. This isn’t explained, but Kotick argues that “in 2020, a US review indicated that women at the firm earned somewhat more than males for equivalent job on average.” The organizers have requested total transparency.
- Regular progress reports, including quarterly shareholder updates on this topic.
While some of these initiatives address worker demands, none of them totally address them. A Better ABK, the company’s newly formed worker union, wanted an end to all obligatory arbitration, as well as company-wide approval of new recruitment and promotion practices, complete disclosure of remuneration data, and a real third-party audit of the report, HR, and senior staff. Instead of recognizing the worker union, Activision-Blizzard hired a well-known union-busting outfit, which is not mentioned in this letter.
The money quote comes at the very end of the message, when Kotick announces a large salary reduction, something that would have been more fitting earlier this year, before the litigation, when Kotick was chastised for his extravagant pay and bonuses and only half them. His salary will now be utilized as a “resource […] in service of becoming the industry leader in workplace excellence,” according to the company.
“I’ve requested that our Board of Directors lower my overall remuneration until the Board determines that we’ve met the transformative gender-related objectives and other commitments outlined above.” I’ve specifically requested that the Board decrease my compensation to the lowest level that California law allows for anyone receiving a salary, which is $62,500 this year. To be clear, this isn’t simply a pay cut; it’s a drop in my entire compensation. During this period, I request that no incentives or equity be provided to me.”
Kotick’s pay will be reduced from $155 million in 2021 to $62,500 as a result of this action.
We should point out that the policies, apologies, and efforts here contrast sharply with Activision-initial Blizzard’s dismissive tone this summer, when the studio denied wrongdoing and attacked the accusers, sparking a walkout, boycott, and protest, as well as thousands of its own employees condemning the response. We should also mention that Bobby Kotick was the target of his own workplace sexual harassment complaint, making his apologies and pledges suspect.
Activision-Blizzard is still facing a lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a lawsuit from the National Labor Relations Board, and an SEC investigation, in addition to the EEOC investigation, which Kotick praises in this letter (a little bit of shade for the other agencies?).
Next week, on November 2nd, Activision-Blizzard will release their Q4 2021 investor financials and report, making this letter quite topical.
The whole saga:
Activision-Blizzard has made a statement that they are partly meeting some of the worker demands, but cutting Bobby Kotick’s compensation. Reference: bobby kotick statement.
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