Activision Blizzard’s studios will have the power to determine their own return-to-office policies despite the company leaders’ decision to drop its vaccine mandate. That’s what Activision Blizzard executive Brian Bulatao said in a follow-up email after the company caught flak following the leak of his first one. In that first missive, Bulatao announced that the the company is lifting its vaccine mandate prior to US employees’ return to office in the coming months. Not everyone’s happy with the change, as you’d expect, and a group of workers scheduled a walkout for April 4th.
The ABK Workers Alliance, a group that formed after California’s fair employment agency filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the gaming titan, is staging a walkout to demand the “immediate reversal to lifting the vaccine requirement.” It also wants the company to offer remote work as a permanent solution and to give each employee the freedom to decide whether to work remotely or in the office. An ABK Workers Alliance rep told Polygon that previous meetings with the company all ended with the decision to continue the vaccine mandate for workers returning to office. “This recent change was not run by any employees before being announced,” they said.
Bulatao sent out his second email following the walkout’s announcement, telling employees that the company’s individual studios can “determine the processes and policies that work best for their employees and locations based on local conditions and risk.” Also, returning to office remains a voluntary decision at this time. According to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier, Blizzard Entertainment president Mike Ybarra told staff in an email that the developer will continue its vaccine requirements “for at least the next few months.” Ybarra also revealed that at least 80 percent of Blizzard personnel has already uploaded proof of vaccination.
In a statement Activision Blizzard sent to Polygon, it didn’t say whether its workers’ reaction to dropping the vaccine mandate influenced Bulatao’s follow-up email. It did say, however, that it will not retaliate against workers who participate in the walkout:
“The health and safety of our employees is at the absolute forefront of everything we do, including our return to office policy. While Activision Blizzard’s U.S. vaccine mandate has been lifted, for the majority of our employees, we are still operating under a voluntary return to office opportunity. In addition, employees who are not comfortable returning to the office are encouraged to work with their manager and our HR team to explore options for working arrangements that suit their individual situations. We will continue to monitor conditions and make adjustments to the policy as needed.
We recognize some employees may be participating in a walkout to express their views. The company supports our employees’ right to express their opinions in a safe and nonthreatening way, and will not retaliate for any decision to participate in this walkout. The company also hopes that those who walk out will conduct themselves in a legal, safe, and nonviolent manner.”