Game Workers Unite UK is now an official, legal trade union. It is now a branch of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) for game developers. The move comes after a groundswell of support for unionization in the industry, partly fueled by the shuttering of developers like Telltale Games.
Game Workers Unite UK (GWU-UK) is the first official games industry union in the United Kingdom. Their current focus is on excessive overtime, particularly unpaid overtime, zero-hour contracts largely aimed at QA testers, and diversity. They have outlined their goals on the union’s official website, where more information can be found. The union’s inaugural meeting is scheduled for December 16.
The international Game Workers Unite campaign canvassed GDC 2018 with fervor, and garnered widespread support within the industry. Over 200 people held a meeting led by the International Game Developer Association’s Jen MacLean titled “Union Now? Pros, Cons, and Consequences of Unionization” was held. According to Kotaku, nearly everybody in the meeting was for unions, and only MacLean brought up consequences of unionization. Game Workers Unite was met by tremendous support at GDC and that labor has started to bear fruit.
GWU-UK is poised to give workers more bargaining power, both to protect themselves and each other. A union will help ensure that workers receive proper compensation for their labor, and are treated fairly. Unions can also help tackle other issues, and provide more oversight on companies that could otherwise exploit employees.
Rockstar Games found itself in hot water just weeks before Red Dead Redemption 2 released for this exact reason. A remark by Rockstar’s Dan Houser led to widespread questioning regarding labor practices at the secretive developer. Crunch, extended overtime hours, appeared rampant at the developer’s U.K. studio. GWU-UK believes it will ensure that these kinds of conditions wouldn’t happen at unionized workplaces.
Telltale Games closure in mid September fueled calls for unionization as well. The developer laid off over 200 employees without warning, severance, and with health insurance coverage ending just days later. Unionization, again, could help employees laid off in these instances and ensure they receive proper severance.
IWGB, GWU-UK’s parent union, is a union protecting gig workers, freelancers, and others working in vulnerable positions.