N.L.R.B. Rules Activision Withheld Raises Because of Union Activity

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The National Labor Relations Board said on Monday that Activision Blizzard had withheld raises from workers because of their union activity.

Activision, the embattled video game company that has agreed to be acquired by Microsoft in a $70 billion deal, withheld raises from quality assurance testers working for its subsidiary Raven Software, which helps test the Activision title Call of Duty, the board said. Workers there voted 19 to 3 to form a union in May.

The ruling, confirmed by a board spokeswoman, was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

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The decision could give the new union additional bargaining power as it continues to negotiate with Activision. “Unions are now trying to organize where they’ve previously feared to tread,” said William Gould, a Stanford emeritus professor and a former N.L.R.B. chair.

If the two sides do not settle, the board will issue a complaint, which would result in a hearing with an administrative law judge, according to the board spokeswoman.

In a statement sent to The Times, an Activision spokesman said that because of legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, it could not institute new pay raises at Raven. “This rule that employers should not grant these kinds of wage increases has been the law for many years,” the statement said.

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More than 60 Raven employees walked out of their jobs in December to protest the company’s decision to end the contracts of a dozen quality assurance workers. The next month, Raven employees said they were forming a union, a rarity in the North American video game industry. Activision declined to voluntarily recognize the union.

In April, Activision Blizzard said it was converting nearly 1,100 temporary workers at its studios to full-time status, but the minimum wage for the workers who are being hired did not apply to existing full-time quality assurance testers at Raven.

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Activision said at the time that it was barred from doing so because the National Labor Relations Act prohibited employers from inducing workers to vote against a union by increasing pay or benefits before an election.

Shortly after Raven employees formed their union, they filed a complaint with the N.L.R.B. claiming that Activision Blizzard discriminated and retaliated against quality assurance testers for their union activity.



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