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The 134 people that Blizzard Entertainment is trying to fire



hello I've come to Versailles France to find out what happens when people in the video games industry do actually unionize specifically I'm talking about the roughly 430 people who work for Blizzard Entertainment in the city for the time being at least I say that because back in February when you probably weren't listening to the Activision Blizzard fourth-quarter earnings call which is fair enough really the company CEO Bobby Kotick began by saying this we once again achieved record results in 2018 that seems good right he goes on to explain that the company has generated about 1.8 billion dollars in net income for the year and so you'd imagine Kotick was enjoying this call he's getting to tell you elders that he's knocked out of the park basically which is an important thing to do when you yourself are getting paid somewhere in the region of 30 million dollars each and every year as Kotoko reported in 2018 that's something like three hundred and six times the salary of your typical Activision Blizzard employee but the thing is these record financial results they're not actually the full picture if we take a look at the company's share price will the latter part of 2018 was a bit of a disaster there's a number of different factors at play here the success of Fortnight that's probably part of it and that really big drop just there well that coincides with the announcement of daya blow immortal a mobile game which received a very vocal and very immediate backlash from fans of the traditionally PC focused series okay so with that context in mind let's jump ahead another 10 minutes into that same call 10 minutes after we've heard the words record a results from Bobby Kotick or where's the discussion at now o layoffs a lot of them are restructuring plan shares investment in less productive non strategic areas of our business and will result in a net headcount reduction of approximately 8 percent now for some employees including a woman I spoke to earlier on today this call was actually the first official word that their jobs were even in trouble internally nothing had been said just yet and so imagine this is the way in which you find out that you're out to become unemployed in a call that starts off by talking about the record-breaking financial success of your company now Activision Blizzard has been criticized for the way it's handled easily game workers unite a group pushing for unionization within the games industry publicly called for bobby kotick to be sucked way playing tomorrow the headline Activision Blizzard reports record revenue as they over 800 employees but nothing really changed Bobby Kotick was not fired and the layoffs have gone ahead largely unchallenged for many this was really frustrating but also just one of those things that tends to happen when you work in video games sometimes 800 of you find yourself on the wrong spreadsheet and you have a job overnight it might not seem fair sure but it's not like you can do much about it unless of course you work in France that is the blizzard office in Messiah is said to be hit especially hard by these layoffs as it houses a lot of non develop musicians like customer support community management etc in fact of Li 437 people employed here 134 of them ought to be let go says management's that's almost 1/3 of the entire workforce but that hasn't happened just yet because thanks to French labor laws when an employer as making a mass layoff like this one they are legally required to sit down with union representatives of their employees and discuss the details of what's about to happen and that well it's been happening for last few months but there's a big meeting coming up today if the Whydah games industry is going to unionize I wanted to see what I could actually look like in practice and so I joined a handful of union reps as they began the day outside the offices main entrance handing out flyers to their colleagues as they showed up for work and most people who stopped to chat seemed fairly up to speed already I noticed in fact as far as I could tell this was perhaps more about the optics as I watched a couple of French journalists arrived to interview the union reps and later on the company's managing director even came down from his office to politely shake hands and check in the message was a simple one you're dealing with an informed workforce here now I was surprised to find the in this office alone and there wasn't just a single union but rather five each of them representing different groups of workers with different priorities however when it came to these job losses in particular they shared a list of core demands a number one Blizzard least to show proof that all 134 of these job losses are actually necessary for the company to remain competitive now here's something that's not public knowledge just yet I've been told that some of the jobs been cut in Versailles or soon going to be reopened in blizzard quark office in Island instead these jobs will likely be offered to the original staff although many of them have families and other commitments that mean the conscious openly France so easily the union's making the case that these jobs must be necessary then blizzard isn't trying to get rid of them altogether it's moving them elsewhere and if you compare the average salaries of Versailles and of Cork they'd also argue that the objective here is actually paying people less money for the same work effect they find especially insulting given Activision Blizzard's record financial success we did approach blizzard for a comment on this particular point but as of recording this video we've not received a reply number to severance pay Activision Blizzard is offering the legal minimum claims unions which again they find problematic given the massive financial success of the company over the last few years and over free finally Blizzard was provide assurances that the remaining employees won't find themselves overworked as a result of their colleagues being let go I was told that so far at least no studies have been carried out by the employer to determine what kind of impact the remaining staff are likely to face now in France if your company hasn't gone bankrupt but wants to lay off more than 50 employees in one go it's a legal requirement that you invite representatives from those employees to meet with you and eventually provide their opinion on what it is that you have planned this opinion along with the plan itself is then considered by the French government will determine whether or not the layoffs go ahead while I was in Versailles this meeting actually happened and unsurprisingly the union reps made it clear that they remained unhappy with blizzards proposal the general feeling seemed to be that although it was very unlikely that the government would overrule the layoffs altogether there's hope that will request certain changes in the employees favor they should take a few more weeks and once that's happened if an agreement is then reached between blizzard and the state the unions are already planning to then take visit to tribunal should this not proved satisfactory for them and the people they represent so here's a million-dollar question I suppose what is it that games unions across the world can learn and take away from what's happening in Versailles right now because as we discussed French labor laws are just different to what you'll find in most other countries most countries don't have that legislation to back them up so what what can we take away here ok I'm actually back in the UK now it took me a week or so to mull over the white the answer to that question should actually be and well here's what I've got so I run this topic past every union rep I met while over embassy and one of them had something an interesting to say I thought they made the point to that you know what it's totally unfair that people working out of the Versailles office were able to fight back against the low severance pay the job losses themselves and the working conditions of the people left behind if say for example employees working for the very same company in California weren't able to do this that's totally unfair and there are two ways of looking at that unfairness the first of which is to say that people working in France shouldn't receive special treatment they should be subject to the same mass layoffs that everyone else is and it's it's just not right that's there all these protections for people in France but not elsewhere and so they should have less or on the flipside you could argue that no wait actually people working in France do deserve those protections and so do we so does the rest of the world the thing is that protection can only come with at the very least proper Union support let me give you an example from where I'm from so I've been to a few of the game workers unite UK meetings over the last few months to see what they're up to they were brand new Union trying to figure out what they can ensure accomplished and it's kind of inspiring I think people coming together from all across the games industry to push for better working conditions that's what the UK industry needs I don't see how you can read Horror Story after Horror Story about crunch and harassment and job losses and not think that's the case but as of yet no major game shaneoh in the country is officially recognized game workers United UK which would basically mean a significant number of the employees asking to be represented by the Union and what that means is that unlikely organizations that I met in Versailles game workers unite UK can't collectively bargain on behalf of any of these employees not truly for that official recognition to start happening there simply needs to be more support for these unions most of the people I've seen attending these meetings so far have been driven and passionate and brilliant mostly but I've also been pretty young I'm not usually all that senior within the companies they work at and that's telling it means if you've been with King games in the UK and you've known for a while you've secured a decent position at the company you work at you're choosing not to be involved in this movement which you know what I understand you don't to rock the boat because your job is comfortable well what happens when it's not what happens when it's your CEO that's announcing record financial success only to sack 8% of the workforce in one go maybe at that point you'll wish you had you know all right cool preaching over thank you so much watching this video if you're wondering how a channel with roughly fifty thousand subscribers can afford to go to friends to report on this in the first place and then spend enough time to make sure we get it right well the answer is patreon yeah if you like our work please do consider supporting us that's not the only way we also have t-shirts and pin badges which we very recently started selling and are very excited to see out in the wild so yeah maybe take a look at those if you like we'd also like to thank Skillshare for sponsoring this video Skillshare is a website for getting better at things that you're not very good at like for example say you've got a work trip coming up in France but you really didn't pay enough attention to miss Davis in high school even though she said it would cost you later on down the line then it would have been a good idea to maybe check in with Skillshare and brush up on your French before you go wouldn't it Chris ah Bonjour is yes we vegetarian see we play if you do have a not eat a ham sandwich out of sheer social awkwardness Skillshare offers online tutorials for learning French as well as a whole bunch of other stuff like video editing photography writing bookkeeping and in development with free membership to the site costing around $10 or 7 pounds per month but hey on top of that the first 500 of you to use this link which you also find in the video description will receive two months premium membership free of charge justjust for clicking that good nice one thanks for watching

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Comments
  • Great video. The most difficult thing about going to France is the way most French people seem to go out of their way not to understand any English or meet you halfway with communication 🙁

  • Yep, Act/Bliz and EA, slaves to their shareholders. It's simply not possible to deliver infinite growth to investors, there's only so many people you can fire and so much monetisation you can push through.

  • If all the game developers unionize, would that make the games better? Most games I play nowadays are made by Independent developers.

  • So while I'm pretty anti-union, god I hope these folks can get something properly sorted. They really are getting fucked over here.

  • Huge shoutout to these guys, because here in france, the employers syndicate and the lobbies fight hard to take this kind of laws down, for they think the Code du Travail (labour laws) is too restrictive.
    IMO, the workers are totally right but for some reason, president Macron thinks that Blizzard's CEO is the one to defend…

  • So if they just fire Kotick they can keep the 134 people actually making games and raise their salaries right? That is the sane solution here right? Right?

  • LOL wow, how unfair that they have workers' protection that people fought for in other countries, whereas in the US we've all lapped up the bullshit mythos of American exceptionalism and continue to lick the boots of billionaires and gleefully sniff the farts of Elon Musk.

  • My friend got a job working for Blizzard in the States last year. I really hope he doesn’t get hit by these layoffs.

  • Diablo Immortal was a blip. What hit activision was the short term success followed by the long term underperformance of Call of Duty's battle royal mode.

  • Record results at the cost of human dignity great work Activision I hoped Blizzard did the same as bungie but with wow subscriptions it seems pretty difficult.

  • I found this video really interesting. It's great to see how things are different in France, in terms of informing how things could be different elsewhere. As usual, you get information across in a way that's easy to take in and digest. Great animation as always.

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