Over 100 developers from Avalanche Studios Group, the studio behind the Just Cause franchise and the upcoming Xbox-exclusive Contraband, have joined the Swedish union Unionen. And now they are negotiating their contract with Avalanche management.
IGN confirmed the news today with a union representative from Avalanche Studios, as well as a representative from Unionen and Avalanche PR. Of the approximately 500 employees at Avalanche, over 100 are members of unions. Earlier this year, those members formed a “club,” or local union board, to negotiate directly with Avalanche management over certain benefits. Negotiations began last week and are ongoing. In addition, employees who are members of another union, Sveriges Ingenjörer, are also involved.
Union membership works a little differently in Sweden than many studio unions we’ve seen in the United States. In Sweden, eligible employees are allowed to join a union at any time without having to hold a union election at their workplace, and the country’s long history of collective bargaining has led to a close interconnection of unions, companies and labor laws. About 70% of the country is involved in a union (according to union data), and it is more common to have a union at work than not. However, this is the first time in Avalanche’s 20-year history that unions have gone to the bargaining table with Avalanche.
Due to high membership, as well as Sweden’s union history and labor laws, unions broadly have the power to negotiate general working conditions (such as salaries and sick leave) for workers in their respective sectors across the country. However, further and more specific negotiations can take place at the company level if enough workers become members of the same union and vote for a board to negotiate on their behalf. In addition, local union boards are given a say in important company decisions such as hiring and firing employees and accepting board members.
While a union representative declined to say what issues workers are negotiating, IGN understands that a potential point of employee concern could include the move to a four-day week. If a contract is reached, it would be valid for two years, after which a new board election would take place for another negotiation. The current round of negotiations has just begun, but both parties said progress so far has been positive.
Update 12:45 p.m. PT: An Avalanche Studios union representative issued the following statement:
We (by which I mean the local union board) are very hopeful about the prospect of signing a collective bargaining agreement and believe that this will be a great step in ensuring that the thoughts, ideas, feelings and opinions of Avalanche employees are taken into account receive the representation they deserve. We look forward to working with management to make the company better.
The original story continues: In response to a request for comment, an Avalanche spokesperson said the following:
As an employer, we strive to create the best possible conditions for the development of all avalanche workers. We support and welcome any initiative that goes in this direction. This also means that we listen, invite dialogue and encourage people to contribute their perspectives and needs. Ultimately, it is thanks to each and every Avalancher that we are able to create the great games we are known for.
The Avalanche employee negotiations come nearly a year after a similar collective response to frustrations with management. Last November, frustrated employees successfully pressured management into a public apology after the company hired a senior person who had been publicly accused of inappropriate behavior toward women in the workplace in a previous position. Avalanche joins numerous other studios in collective bargaining as part of a growing gaming labor movement that includes Sega, Workinman Interactive, Blizzard Albany, Raven Software, Zenimax QA and video game voice actors.
Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Do you have a story tip? Send it to email@example.com.