Activision Blizard is asking shareholders to vote against two proposals at its upcoming AGM: one that would include adding an “employee representative” to the board, and another that would call for the production of an annual public report on the company’s efforts to Combat abuse, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard will of course figure prominently at this year’s AGM, but the company’s handling of widespread workplace misconduct allegations that have come to light over the past year and the union efforts that have helped accelerate it , are also the focus.
“Activision Blizzard has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at improving our workplace culture,” said CEO Bobby Kotick in his opening comments Invitation to the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders. “Maintaining the very best place to work remains our focus, and we believe that a place like this gives us a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining the highly sought-after talent we need to operate successfully.
“We intend for Activision Blizzard to be recognized as a role model for other companies in the areas of inclusion, respect and safety. We have made achieving this goal one of our top priorities in the short and long term as we believe it will enable us to deliver the very best games for our players and returns for our shareholders.”
Kotick said Activision Blizzard has made “significant strides” in improving working conditions through “new resources, commitments and investments in our workplace related to the prevention of harassment, discrimination and retaliation,” noting that the company is now publicly disclosing data Equal pay and employee representation. All notable moves, no doubt — but at the same time, the company is defying two shareholder proposals that seem to stretch those efforts even further.
One proposal is for an employee representative director, nominated by non-management employees, to join Activision Blizzard’s board of directors. Worker representation on the board, which is “common in Europe” according to the proposal, can improve communication, employee relations and productivity. Also very important (at least from the shareholders’ point of view) is that a recent German study “found no negative impact on profitability or adverse changes in wages or investment levels as a result of employee representation on boards”.
However, the Activision Blizzard board of directors opposed that position, saying that allowing employees to select their own representative for a seat on the board “is intended to supersede the board’s careful judgment as to the criteria that should be reflected in a candidate pool for directors.” “.
“The Board and the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee must have discretion to determine the criteria for directors to best serve the Company’s shareholders, as these ever-evolving criteria are necessary to help the Company achieve its strategic priorities and assist with risk management,” the board wrote. “This is particularly important given the size and complexity of the company’s businesses. Providing non-management staff with a dedicated position on the Board using a different process for representing the Board or applying different qualifications would adversely affect the role of the Board in this process.”
The second proposal, an annual report on Activision Blizzard’s efforts to combat abuse and misconduct in the workplace — and the resulting findings — was met with similar disdain.
“First, the board believes that rather than expend energy and resources producing another report, we should continue to address employees’ concerns directly,” the board wrote. “Putting our full attention on these concerns is the best way to quickly and effectively bring about real change in our workplace.
“Second, the proposed report itself, even if completed after a significant investment of time and money, would create a set of metrics that are simply not the best measures of how the company is responding to employee concerns. The Board strives to accurately measure the speed and effectiveness of our changes, not based on metrics that are not precisely tailored to our company’s situation.”
The company also warned that disclosure of such data, even when aggregated, “could potentially reveal more information about an individual employee’s allegations than that employee is willing to disclose.” On the other hand, excluding data at the employee’s request would result in potentially inaccurate or misleading results; In any case, the proposed reports would “divert resources away from our ongoing efforts to improve our work culture and ensure a safe work environment.”
Reactions to the proposals bear more than a passing resemblance to Activision Blizzard’s response to union talks in 2021, when it said improvements in the workplace could be implemented faster and more effectively without a union. Not surprisingly, that statement drew a lot of mockery on social media, but Activision Blizzard repeated it in a brief note on the progress of the union campaign currently underway at Raven Software.
The NLRB is mailing out our ballots today at 3:00pm Central Time to vote for our GWA Union! We look forward to moving forward in this process and continuing our next steps to make history. #WeAreGWA pic.twitter.com/E1sSFAtP84April 29, 2022
“We deeply respect the rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union and to exercise all other rights under the National Labor Relations Act,” the statement said. “Across the organization, we believe that a direct relationship between managers and team members allows us to react quickly and deliver the strongest outcomes and opportunities for people.”
The statement also said that approval for the petition to form a union at Raven came from “a regional director on the National Labor Relations Board” and that Activision Blizzard is now “assessing legal options regarding a possible appeal.” In January, the company decided against voluntary union recognition.
Voting on the proposals and others, including new board nominations and executive compensation packages, will take place during the annual general meeting of shareholders on June 21. Interestingly, the vote on either proposal will not be binding: the board “will carefully consider the outcome of the vote” but “ultimately has a duty to act in the best interests of the company and all of its shareholders”.
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