Ustwo Games, the studio behind Monument Valley and Land's End, just launched a new game on the Apple Arcade. But the team has found itself under scrutiny from a pro-union organization claiming an employee was laid off due to his union ties, which the studio denies.
A release from Games Workers Unite says the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) will take legal action against Ustwo for firing senior programmer Austin Kelmore, over what it calls the "victimisation of a leading trade union activist," if Ustwo does not reverse its decision by October 4.
According to GWU, Kelmore—who is also the branch chair and founding member of the Game Workers Unite UK branch of the IWGB—was informed in late September he would be put on "gardening leave" and then dismissed. The statement says this took place a few weeks after he was asked about his union activity by a senior manager, and also invited Ustwo employees to a meeting to discuss rights at work. GWU alleges this is an act of "unfair dismissal and victimisation by Ustwo," and could put Kelmore's Tier 2 Visa at risk.
In a statement provided to USgamer and posted to social media, Ustwo confirms that Kelmore is departing the company but refutes the reasoning presented by GWU and IWGB. The game development company says there are "misleading" statements in what has been said by IWGB, but will not be commenting further on the matter.
Unionization has been a point of discussion in the industry over the last few years, with pro-union advocates hosting discussons and trying to encourage game workers to organize through entities like GWU. But while some headway has been made, it's still a hot topic of discussion. It's unclear without further evidence from either party as to the true reasoning behind Kelmore's departure, but we'll see how things shake out when IWGB's deadline rolls around tomorrow.