Unions are few and far between in the games industry and as we have discussed in our breakdown of crunch, there are almost none that can halt the production of a triple A game.
Most of the unions on this list are small and relatively new. Similarly, most only exist in one country, and therefore are unlikely to have much control over large, multinational companies such as most of the Triple A studios that dominate the industry.
However, the size and number of unions is growing and being aware of what unions are available to you, and how to join them is a big part of increasing their efficacy.
Game Makers Finland is a member of the Association of IT sector Employees (Tietoala) and are part of the Union of the Professional Engineers in Finland. The Union provides all its members with comprehensive services and benefits and has more than 70 employees in different skill areas.
STJV (Le Syndicat des Travailleurs du Jeu Vidéo) Is a aims to defend the moral and economic interests of those working in the games industry through:
- Labour laws, that must be scrupulously respected.
- Improvement of working conditions, including fair remuneration for work provided and respect of all workers.
- Fighting against all forms of discrimination existing in our industry.
- Helping all workers, union members or not, that find themselves in a difficult situation at work.
- Informing workers: without knowing our rights, we cannot defend them.
- Informing public institutions and associations. Currently informed only of the wishes of the business owners, it is necessary that they also benefit from our point of view.
- Promoting any new or alternative forms of work organisation that help ensure good working conditions.
Aside from sounding like the most French organization possible, Solidaires Informatique is a nationwide union created in 2011 that is also part of Solidaires ITEC (IT, telecommunications, electronics). Together, they build solidarity by (translated):
- Developing a unionist struggle in a sector that is often a laboratory for liberalism (working time – fixed days without a time reference, 5-year fixed-term contract, contractual termination, etc.)
- Organizing on professional demands isolated workers (in small companies or in IT services mission) and employees of larger companies in the IT and services branch and other companies. The specific development of this sector where executives and technicians are in the majority cannot be taken into account in SUD Commerce & Services.
- Avoiding the multiplication of company unions in a sector with multiple changes (sale, buyout, liquidation, absorption, merger….).
- Allowing a work of unionization of the IT subcontracting of large companies. The unions of principals in these sectors are not always able to respond and/or are in a weak position in these sectors.
- Creating a union link between sectors undergoing major industrial change: hardware, electronics, software, services, advice, telecommunications, etc.
Game Workers Unite Ireland is one of two chapters of the pro-union advocacy group that has been registered as a trade union. GWUI is officially a branch of the Financial Services Union (FSU) and they state the following as their objectives for the games industry:
- A decent wage. Currently, wages for workers in the sector are not sufficient to ensure a decent standard of living. We are campaigning to secure fair and just wages.
- We are fighting to end to the culture of ‘crunch’ and to eliminate unpaid overtime.
- We are opposed to the industry’s reliance on temporary and flexible contracts. We want to see an end to precarious employment in the sector.
- We want to see an end to harassment, intimidation and bullying in the sector.
- We are campaigning for increased investment in the industry through state support and options for people to establish co-ops.
Bectu is a Scottish Media and Entertainment union that has recently started representing games industry workers. They seek to combat the long hour culture in the games industry, as well as issues with job insecurity, lack of transparency, bullying and harassment.
Game Workers Unite UK is one of two chapters of the pro-union advocacy group that has been registered as a trade union. GWUUK is a branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). They seek to increase the quality of life for all game workers by campaigning to:
- End the institutionalised practice of excessive/unpaid overtime
- Improve Diversity and Inclusion at all levels
- Inform workers of their rights and support those who are abused, harassed, or need representation
- Secure a steady and fair wage for all
SAG-AFTRA is not a union available to most workers in the games industry, with one notable exception. Voice Actors.
Voice actors were at the center of probably the first, and definitely the largest, union-led strikes to ever affect the games industry. In 2016 and 2017 when a breakdown in contract negotiations led to extended strike action aimed at 11 studios, including some of the industries largest such as EA and Activision.
Although the strike was not an unmitigated success, it did result in the union coming to terms that were more favorable than those offered before the strike. Voice actors make up a relatively small (but still important) part of the creative process of making a game. But, the solidarity they showed during the strike set a precedent in the games industry that will serve designers, developers, artists, and others in the industry well when the time comes for them to unionize in kind.
We hope you found this list of unions helpful. We know it is small now, but we have no doubt it will grow in time and we will add any new union as, and when, they are formed.