Monument Valley Developer Under Fire for for Alleged Union Busting
Monument Valley developer Ustwo Games is being accused of letting a programmer go because of his union involvement by Game Workers Unite UK.
Ustwo Games is the latest developer to find themselves under fire from within the game dev community. Support for unions like Game Workers Unite has been on the rise over the past couple of years, and while many developers are supportive of it, they still face a lot of opposition. According to GamesIndustry.biz, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which Game Workers Unite UK is a part of, is considering legal action against the Monument Valley developer after they allegedly fired programmer Austin Kelmore because of his involvement in unions.
Despite the name of the studio, Ustwo Games does employ around 25 people according to LinkedIn. Kelmore was one of these developers; additionally, he served as the chair of GWU UK. Supposedly, he invited several other Ustwo employees to a union meeting, but when management caught wind of this they reprimanded, questioned, and ultimately dismissed him. In the eyes of Game Workers Unite UK, Ustwo Games violated UK employment law as Kelmore had the “right to be accompanied by a union representative during his disciplinary and dismissal hearing.”
Game Workers Unite UK has given the Monument Valley developer an October 4 deadline to reverse their decision, and also publicly released the following statement from UK Branch Secretary Jamie Cross: “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. 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.”
Ustwo Games did discuss this debacle with GamesIndustry.biz, saying they did not let Kelmore go because of his involvement in a union. “Austin Kelmore is currently an employee of Ustwo Games and 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.”
While it remains to be seen who comes out on top in court, this whole controversy not only highlights the opposition unions for game developers will face as they form but their ultimate use within the industry as well. If you want to know more about why exactly the gaming industry is trying to unionize, I would highly recommend the following video from Super Bunnyhop: