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Ustwo Games, the BAFTA award-winning studio behind Monument Valley, will contend with legal action following claims of union busting.
According to Game Workers Unite (GWU), senior programmer at Ustwo Austin Kelmore was dismissed by the studio in late September. He was a key programmer on Assemble with Care, a puzzle game released on iOS through Apple Arcade. As well as that, Kelmore is also the branch chair and a founding member of Game Workers Unite (GWU), a subsidiary of the trade union Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB).
GWU claims that Kelmore’s dismissal occurred shortly after he invited Ustwo Games employees to a meeting to talk through their rights at work, and was questioned by a senior manager about his role in the trade union. Its statement also alleged that not only was Kelmore dismissed due to his GWU activity, but that Ustwo Games violated employment law by denying him the right to be accompanied by a union representative during his disciplinary and dismissal meeting.
The union has announced that the developer has until October 4 to reverse the dismissal before legal action begins. In a statement to GamesIndustry.biz, the developer said Kelmore is still employed at Ustwo Games, but ‘will be leaving in the near future for reasons unconnected to his membership of a trade union or his undertaking trade union activities.’
‘We have other employees who are members of trade unions. To respect Austin's privacy, it is not appropriate for us to comment further on this matter,’ the statement concluded. IWGB GWU UK branch secretary Jamie Cross made the point that Kelmore and his family’s immigration status has been jeopardised by the alleged dismissal. ‘Despite Ustwo's claims of being as much a family as it is a company, it has decided to leave Austin, one of its best developers, completely orphaned,’ he said to GWU.
‘Austin and his family are not only left without their main source of income, but also unsure if they will have to uproot their whole lives and leave the country in a few weeks. The union will not stand idly by in the face of this unlawful and vicious act, and is determined to fight back until this decision is reversed, either voluntarily or through the courts,’ Cross explained.
Voice actor Troy Baker claimed that developer Gearbox Software ‘wouldn’t go union’, and that was the reason why he did not return to his role as the character Rhys in Borderlands 3. Gearbox responded with a statement showing that it adhered to Texas labour laws, but labour union SAG-AFTRA said that it experienced resistance when approaching the developer with a union agreement.