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3 October: The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is to take legal action and launch a campaign against BAFTA award-winning mobile games and design studio Ustwo over the victimisation of a leading trade union activist.
The management of Ustwo, the studio behind the multi-award winning Monument Valley video games, informed Austin Kelmore, the branch chair and founding member of the Game Workers Unite (GWU) UK branch of the IWGB, in late September that he would be put on gardening leave and then dismissed. This happened a few weeks after he was questioned by a senior manager regarding his trade union activity and just after he invited a group of Ustwo employees to a meeting to discuss rights at work.
Austin was one of three key programmers on Ustwo's much anticipated Apple Arcade game Assemble with Care, which was completed shortly before he was dismissed.
Besides the firing over trade union activity, in breach of Section 152 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, Ustwo management was also in breach of Section 146 of the same act and section 10 of Employment Relations act 1999 by denying Austin the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative to his disciplinary and dismissal meeting.
The union has given Ustwo until Friday (4 October) to reverse the decision before it files legal action.
Ustwo's HR department had previously attacked Austin's attempts to hold management to account and generate positive change at the company. In a meeting and subsequent email from October 2018, the HR department criticised the fact Austin spent time on “company feedback, diversity schemes and working practices” and the fact he “puts leadership... on the spot”.
The email concludes saying “It feels that Austin is a self appointed bastion of change and sometimes speaks on behalf of others” - the very definition of a trade union representative. It then goes on to say that “The studio runs as a collective ‘we’ rather than leadership v employees, which may have been Austin’s experience in the past, but it’s not how things are here.”
This unfair dismissal and victimisation by Ustwo, will not only hurt Austin and his family emotionally and financially, but could also put their immigration status at risk. Austin, a US national, was brought to the UK by Ustwo almost two years ago on a Tier 2 Visa, which could be put at risk by the termination of his contract.
IWGB GWU UK branch secretary Jamie Cross said: “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.”
GWU UK became a branch of the IWGB in December 2018, with the stated goals of tackling the industry's culture of excessive unpaid overtime, known as crunch, the use of zero-hours contracts, its lack of diversity and its failure to address a culture of homophobia and sexism.
For more information:
Emiliano Mellino, IWGB press officer [email protected]
Notes to the Editors