game workers unite uk
Game Workers Unite UK becomes the UK’s first union to protect game workers’ rights
Last month saw the launch of the very first union for videogame workers in the United Kingdom. Game Workers Unite UK is a worker-led, democratic organisation that represents and advocates for UK game workers’ rights.
The GWU UK is an official branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, and affiliated with Game Workers Unite, an international grassroots organisation dedicated to advocating workers’ rights and the crafting of a unionised game industry (gameworkersunite.org).
GWU UK’s goals are to end the institutionalised practice of excessive and unpaid overtime, often referred to as ‘Crunch’, to improve diversity and inclusion at all levels, to support abused or harassed workers, and to secure a steady and living wage for all of its members.
Kill the crunch
For years we’ve enjoyed the fruits of the hard work that developers put into games, but the sad reality is that many of those games were created under these difficult conditions and often uncertain job security. You only need to look at the recent events surrounding Telltale Games and Codemasters Evo where workers lost their jobs, or the reports that some workers at Rockstar worked 100-hour weeks, to get a good picture of the sometimes difficult conditions faced by the industry.
In a press release, game worker and founding member of the IWGB’s Games Workers Unite branch Dec Peach said, “For as long as I can remember it has been considered normal for games workers to endure zero-hours contracts, excessive unpaid overtime, and even sexism and homophobia as the necessary price to pay for the privilege of working in the industry. Now, as part of the IWGB, we will have the tools to fix this broken sector and create an ethical industry where it’s not only big game companies that thrive, but workers as well.”
IWGB General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee commented, “The game workers’ decision to unionise with the IWGB should be a wake-up call for the UK’s gaming industry. The IWGB is proud to support these workers and looks forward to shining a massive spotlight on the industry.” And a massive spotlight it is indeed. Hundreds of game workers are expected to sign up to the union within its first few months.
All game workers, apart from those with hiring and firing power, can join the union and by doing so will gain several benefits, including full legal protection support for employment tribunals and other legal cases, the option to strike, and the ability to have the support of a trade union representative who can offer them advice and accompany them to disciplinary meetings.
This is a hugely positive step in the right direction to eradicate crunch and create a better, safer and more inclusive games industry, but for it to be truly effective, the games industry must unionise globally. A difficult task, but with the help of GWU UK, we remain hopeful. ■
“This is a huge step in the right direction to eradicate crunch”
Above We’re happy to see Clementine return, but its development came at a cost. right OnRush had poor sales, which meant job losses for those who worked on it.