Bioware’s quality assurance testers working on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf have voted to form the first unionized workplace for the video game industry in Canada. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 applied to become the certified bargaining agent for Keywords Studios, the contracting company through which the testers are employed, back in April. Now, Kotaku says the election has resulted in a 16-0 vote in favor of unionization. Before working on the fourth major game in the Dragon Age franchise, they also supported the development of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition and Legacy of the Sithan expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The testers, who worked out of BioWare’s Edmonton office, started organizing after Keywords Studios announced that they’ll be required to return to office, whereas direct BioWare employees were giving more options. Keywords took back its return-to-office order, but the testers told Kotaku that they’re working to prevent it from being reinstated and to get the company to increase their pay. At the moment, their base pay is around US$13 an hour, roughly equivalent to the area’s minimum wage. They argued that the amount they’re being paid isn’t commensurate with the skills needed for the job and that BioWare employees doing the same work are being paid a lot more.
The union that’s now representing the workers are expected to bargain with the studio’s bosses sometime this week. In an email the QA testers sent out, they wrote: “We are excited to move into bargaining with the employer and start towards a more equitable working situation.”
In the US, QA workers at Activision Blizzard studio Raven Software vote to unionize last month. That came after they went on strike following layoffs that affected 12 testers and after the studio split the remaining workers among various departments, perhaps in an effort to make unionization efforts hard to organize. Xbox head Phil Spencer announced that Microsoft will recognize the union after the tech giant’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is complete.
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