The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has announced it is planning on taking legal action against BAFTA award-winning studio Ustwo, over “the victimisation of a leading trade union activist”.
Austin Kelmore, the branch chair and founding member of the Game Workers Unite (GWU) UK branch of the IWGB, claims that “a few weeks after” being questioned by an unspecified Ustwo senior manager about his trade union activity, he was put on gardening leave and then dismissed.
Kelmore alleges Ustwo’s HR department had previously “attacked [his] attempts to hold management to account and generate positive change at the company”. IWGB has quoted an email from October 2018 reportedly criticised Kelmore for speaking “on behalf of others”.
“It feels that Austin is a self-appointed bastion of change and sometimes speaks on behalf of others”, the email reportedly said. “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.”
In a statement to MCV, Ustwo said: “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.
“Ustwo Games has been and will continue to be committed to diversity and inclusivity. We work hard to build a supportive work environment for all our employees.”
Kelmore further alleges Ustwo denied him trade union representation at his disciplinary and dismissal meetings.
“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,” said IWGB GWU UK branch secretary, Jamie Cross. “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.”
The union says it has given Ustwo until Friday October 4th, 2019, to “reverse the decision before it files legal action”.