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Some Activision Blizzard staff strike as vaccine mandate removed

"The health and safety of our employees is at the absolute forefront of everything we do."

Activision Blizzard employees have taken part in a planned strike in protest at the company's recent decision to drop its requirement that in-office staff are vaccinated.

Last week, the embattled World of Warcraft and Call of Duty maker announced it would no longer require office-based staff to have had Covid jabs, while encouraging a gradual return to in-person working over the coming months.

The decision, announced in an email by Activision Blizzard exec Brian Bulatao, was immediately criticised by staff who said it risked employees who may be immunocompromised or who lived with others who are, and was poorly timed as the US faces up to Covid's current Omicron BA2 subvariant.

Staff criticism sparked a slight climbdown from Activision Blizzard, in a further email from Bulatao. This delegated the decision on dropping vaccine mandates to individual studios, which allowed Blizzard to say it would keep the requirement in place for "at least the next few months".

But this wasn't enough to stop staff walkouts yesterday, with around 80 (via Axios) to 115 (via Polygon) staff apparently taking part.

Activision Blizzard staff collective ABK Workers Alliance said its members were pushing for a full reinstatement of the company's vaccine mandate, and the ability for staff to decide to work from home permanently.

"We had 115 people attend our virtual walkout," one staff member told Polygon. "Most people opted not to be on campus due to a rise in Covid transmission in our area. ABK also did not allow people to take paid time for this walkout, which is a break from their past behaviour."

"Those who are dealing with any form of illness or disability are the ones who bear the brunt of this decision to force everyone back into the office," another told Axios. "It's evident that remote work is effective. Most people do not need to be physically present to do their job."

"The health and safety of our employees is at the absolute forefront of everything we do, including our return to office policy," Activision said in response. "While Activision Blizzard’s US 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 recognise 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."

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Tom Phillips

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Tom is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and makes sure we put the accent on Pokémon.

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