Over 100 developers at Avalanche Studios Group, the studio behind the Just Cause franchise and upcoming Xbox-exclusive Contraband, have joined Swedish trade union Unionen. And now, they are bargaining with Avalanche management over their contract.
IGN confirmed the news today with an Avalanche Studios union representative, as well as a representative of Unionen and Avalanche PR. Of roughly 500 employees at Avalanche, over 100 of them are members of Unionen. Earlier this year, these members formed a “club,” or local union board, in order to bargain directly with Avalanche management over specific benefits. Negotiations began last week and are ongoing, and additionally include employees who are members of a different union, Sveriges Ingenjörer.
Union membership in Sweden works somewhat differently than many of the studio unions we’ve seen in the United States thus far. In Sweden, eligible workers are allowed to join a trade union at any time without a union election at their workplace, and a long history of collective bargaining in the country has resulted in a deep intertwining of unions, companies, and labor laws. Roughly 70% of the country is involved in a union (per data shared by Unionen), and it’s more common to have a union at one’s workplace than not. This, however, marks the first time unions have gone to the bargaining table with Avalanche in its 20 year history.
Because of high membership and Sweden’s union history and labor laws, trade unions broadly have the power to negotiate general working conditions (such as salaries and sick leave) for workers in their respective sectors, country-wide. However, further and more specific negotiations are able to take place at a company level if enough employees become members of the same union and vote for a board to negotiate on their behalf. What’s more, local union boards receive a voice in major company decisions such as hiring and firing of employees and additions of C-suite members.
While a Unionen representative declined to share what issues the employees are bargaining over, IGN understands that one possible item of employee interest could be a move to a four-day work week, among other things. If a contract is agreed upon, it would be good for two years, after which a new board election would take place for a new negotiation. The current round of negotiations have only just begun, but both parties suggested that progress thus far has been positive.
Update 12:45pm PT: A union representative from Avalanche Studios offered the following statement:
We (by which I mean the board of the local union branch) are very hopeful about the prospect of signing a collective bargaining agreement, and believe that this will be a great step towards ensuring that the thoughts, ideas, feelings, and opinions of Avalanche’s employees are given the representation that they deserve. We look forward to working together with company leadership to make the company better.
Original story continues: In response to a request for comment, an Avalanche spokesperson said the following:
As an employer, we’re committed to creating the best possible conditions for all Avalanchers to thrive. We support and welcome any initiative that goes in this direction. This also means that we listen, invite dialogue, and encourage people to bring forward their perspectives and needs. After all, it’s thanks to each and every Avalancher that we’re able to make the great games we’re known for.
Avalanche employees’ bargaining comes almost a year after a similarly collective response to frustrations with management. Last November, frustrated employees successfully pressured management into a public apology after the company hired a high-level individual who had been publicly accused of inappropriate workplace behavior toward women in a previous role. With this, Avalanche joins numerous other studios in collective bargaining as part of a growing labor movement in games that includes Sega, Workinman Interactive, Blizzard Albany, Raven Software, Zenimax QA, and video game voice actors.
Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to [email protected].