Keywords Studios developers working in support of Dragon Age 4 maker BioWare are seeking to unionize. That’s according to an April 20 application filed with the Alberta Labour Relations Board. The staff is preparing for a union vote following recent labour organising efforts at other game studios.
“United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union, Local No. 401 applied under the Labour Relations Code to become the certified bargaining agent for a unit of employees of Keywords Studios B.C., Inc. compromising All employees employed in development support at the BioWare office in Edmonton,” reads the notice published by Alberta’s Labour Relations Board shared on Reddit. A representative for the Board confirmed it was accurate.
Keywords Studios is a global video game industry services company that contracts with other companies for things like art, localisation, and QA. BioWare’s Edmonton headquarters, the acclaimed studio behind Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and other RPG classics, is one of their clients. Developers contracted through the company are listed in the credits for both Mass Effect Andromeda and Anthem. Unionizing would allow the workers in question to negotiate a contract improved working conditions like better pay, benefits, and overtime rules.
After the Board certifies that the application meets its requirements, including that there is at least 40% support among the group of employees who would become part of the union, employees have until May 3 to file objections.
Solidarity to BioWare QA from everyone at Raven QA! https://t.co/uogQHs7mE8— Game Workers Alliance 💙#WeAreGWA (@WeAreGWA) April 25, 2022
It’s not immediately clear how many staff are seeking to unionize or what their roles are. EA, Keywords Studios, and UFCW Local 401 did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The announcement comes as labour organising appears to be picking up steam in the video game industry. Indie studio Vodeo became the first in North America to unionize in December, and QA workers at Call of Duty studio Raven Software just overcame their first hurdle with the U.S. National Labour Relations Board to hold a vote to unionize.
Last week, an NLRB complaint was filed against Nintendo of America alleging retaliation when a contact employee was fired after asking a questions about unions in a February meeting, sources told Kotaku. Nintendo said the termination was over an NDA violation and denies there is any union activity at its North American headquarters.