A team of quality assurance (QA) contractors who work closely with BioWare, a studio owned by EA, has voted unanimously (16 to 0) to form a union. The workers are employed by the Edmonton, Canada-based branch of Keywords Studios, making them the country’s first union in the game industry.
Signs of unionization first emerged in April, with the contractors citing a requirement to return to work in the office — even when other full-time BioWare workers got the option to work from home — as one of the reasons behind their decision to organize. Keywords Studios has since reversed this policy and is giving all workers a hybrid work from home option. The workers also take issue with Keywords’ time off policy and pay, which reportedly starts at $15 CAD (about $12 USD) — minimum wage in Canada.
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
A statement on Keywords Studios’ site says the company will “accept” workers’ choice to unionize. “As an organization we want to ensure an engaging experience for all of our employees, and we take any concerns that our staff have seriously,” the statement reads. “We will continue to have an ongoing dialogue with all individuals in the Edmonton team, as we move forward together, always learning and improving.”
The now-organized contractors have worked on a number of BioWare titles, like Mass Effect Legendary Edition and a Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion. They’re currently working on the upcoming Dragon Age: Dreadwolf.
“While the unionization of Keywords Studios employees in Edmonton does not involve BioWare employees, we want to be clear that we at EA respect the process and the right of workers to choose,” Lacey Haines, EA’s director of corporate communications, said in a statement.
The union marks a milestone in Canada and follows a recent push for video game workers to unionize. Workers at the Vodeo Games studio voted to unionize in a first for video games studios in North America last December, with QA workers at Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software organizing in May.