Video game industry workers in Edmonton have unanimously backed the strike action.
Edmonton employees at Irish company Keywords Studios, represented by UFCW Canada Local 401, made history in the summer of 2022 by becoming the first video game industry union in Canada.
They were fired last month amid efforts to negotiate their first collective bargaining agreement, which has dragged on for more than a year.
The team worked on quality assurance and testing for Edmonton-based developer BioWare, which is owned by American video game giant Electronic Arts.
BioWare, which is behind the critically acclaimed mass effect and Dragon Age The franchise refused to renew its contract with the Edmonton team, which the union said resulted in layoffs.
The president of UFCW Canada Local 401 said in a statement that the strike “is about holding the company accountable rather than giving up the right to walk away from the collective bargaining process.”
“The video game industry is born out of poor working conditions, including working weeks of up to 80 hours or more,” said Thomas Hesse.
“As long as that's the case, more workers will continue to unionize.”
The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Alberta Labor Relations Board.
UFCW Canada Western Canada director Pablo Godoy said in an email that the complaint was filed in part because the union believed the keywords were “engaged in superficial trade with little intent to negotiate a contract” and did not provide adequate notice that the contract was being terminated.
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Keywords Studios did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The union had planned a rally outside BioWare's Edmonton office on Tuesday.
Godoy said that at the time of the layoffs, Keywords Studios had to explore ways to shift the team to projects other than working on the collective bargaining agreement.
At the time of unionization, workers cited low wages, lack of benefits, and more.
Keywords Studios said after the June 2022 merger vote that it had accepted the vote.
“We value our people and will continue to strive to be a good employer,” the company said in a statement at the time. “As an organization, we want to provide an engaging experience for all of our employees, and we take seriously any concerns our employees have.
“We will continue to have an ongoing dialogue with every individual on the Edmonton team as we move forward together, always learning and improving.”
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