Game Workers Unite has accused mobile developer Ustwo Games of union busting. The group, which became a branch of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) in December last year, alleges that Ustwo “victimised” a trade union activist.
Austin Kelmore, who is a branch chair and a founding member of Game Workers Unite, allegedly had his contract terminated a few weeks after a senior manager at Ustwo questioned him over his trade union activity. GWU also claims he was also denied union representation at his disciplinary and dismissal meetings. GWU says Kelmore’s dismissal is a violation of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act of 1992, as was the alleged denial of union representation – the latter point would also be an infringement of the Employment Relations Act of 1999.
Ustwo is a mobile games studio known for the BAFTA award-winning Monument Valley, and more recently Apple Arcade’s Assemble with Care, on which Kelmore was one of three key programmers. He was dismissed in September, shortly after its completion.
GWU has given Ustwo until tomorrow (October 4) to reverse its decision or it will file the action.
GWU further alleges in its full statement that the termination of Kelmore’s contract “could put at risk” the Visa he was using to stay in the UK. GWU claims Ustwo brought Kelmore to the UK “almost two years ago.” Branch secretary Jamie Cross says Kelmore 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.”
In response to these accusations, Ustwo has tweeted a short statement confirming that Kelmore will be leaving the studio, but denying that this is related to his union membership or activities. The studio makes a point of noting that it has “other employees who are also members of trade unions, and we respect the right of our employees to unionise.” It also alleges that there are “inaccuracies and omissions” in the IWGB’s statement – we have asked for details on this point.