Days after Raven QA got the green light to go forward with their union vote, another QA unit working with a big developer has moved to unionize. This time, external contractors doing QA for Bioware have applied to the Alberta Labor Relations board to form a union. A representative of the group told Game Developer that its members could no longer bear “struggling to make ends meet” working on Bioware’s games, and this sentiment was echoed in a similar report by Kotaku.
A notice regarding the application from the Alberta Labor Relations Board was first shared on Reddit several days ago. The QA unit in question consists of employees from an external company, Keywords Studios, who have been contracting with Bioware. These workers have contributed to QA on the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, The Old Republic: Legacy of the Sith, and the upcoming Dragon Age 4, and are being represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
In both the Kotaku and Game Developer stories, the Keywords QA representatives pointed to the contract company’s return to office plan as a primary motivator for the union push. Keywords recently announced that all staff would be returning to office full time May 9, despite a concerning rate of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta and uncertainty regarding future outbreaks.
Full time Bioware staff, meanwhile, will continue to be allowed to flex between work-from-home and being in-office. This is not the only disparity between contract and full time staff: the representative who spoke to Game Developer claimed that the Keywords contractors had to report to work on days Bioware full-time staff had off, and both reports cited pay close to Canada’s minimum wage of $15/hr ($11/hr US) as motivating factors for forming the union.
Despite working closely with Bioware on numerous projects, the worker speaking to Game Developer characterized their grievances as lying primarily with Keywords, claiming that “Our coworkers at BioWare have treated us really well, but we are obviously limited in our interactions by our contract.”
The workers’ representative speaking to both outlets seem confident in their ultimate success, and the workers only require a simple majority of “yes” votes from their organizing unit to form a union. The Alberta Labor Relations Board is set to complete its review of the workers’ application by May 3, and, if approved, a vote will likely be held shortly thereafter.