This morning, quality assurance testers on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf unanimously voted to form Canada’s first video game labour union. They filed the motion on April 20, and the election concluded 16-0 in favour of unionizing. This came after the devs mounted an organised campaign focused on bad pay and a troubling return-to-office mandate.
The testers are employed through the contracting company Keywords Studios, which has over 40 offices all over the world. These employees work at the Edmonton office, where they’ve provided support for BioWare games such as Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and the Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion Legacy of the Sith. They’re currently providing quality assurance testing for the recently revealed Dragon Age: Dreadwolf.
BREAKING! We’ve received the results of our vote count and we have UNANIMOUSLY voted 16-0 and will be forming a union. More details incoming, so follow for updates. ✊
— KWS Edmonton United (@KWSUnited) June 6, 2022
The union campaign started after Keywords Studios announced that the testers would be required to return to BioWare’s office starting on May 9. Testers do not receive paid sick time, despite Alberta’s 14-day quarantine requirement. Testers also wanted to raise the pay from the base of roughly $13 USD ($18) per hour. Keywords Studios eventually rescinded the back-to-office mandate, but the workers told Kotaku today that increasing pay and preventing mandatory return-to-office are still some of the main concerns they will be bargaining over.
According to an email that the QA testers sent out at noon, the union will begin bargaining with Keywords Studios bosses this week.
“We are excited to move into bargaining with the employer and start towards a more equitable working situation,” they wrote. “We would like to thank the brave workers across North America who are fighting for a better workplace. We’re here in solidarity with you.”
The successful organising vote follows the recent QA unionization victory at Raven Software, which works on the Call of Duty games. Quality assurance testers there are now able to negotiate with Activision Blizzard for better pay and working conditions. And after Microsoft announced it would voluntarily recognise new unions, it seems likely that the games labour movement will continue to build momentum.
According to Keywords Studios’ website, “Keywords Studios accept the vote of the 16 Edmonton staff who have chosen to unionize.”
A spokesperson said that the studio did not want to offer any further comment.
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