game work­ers unite uk

Game Work­ers Unite UK be­comes the UK’s first union to pro­tect game work­ers’ rights

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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.

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