On the 19th of December, 6 workers were fired by Eugen Systems. This represents about a quarter of the 21 employees left at Eugen. At the beginning of 2018, Eugen Systems staff numbered around 50. Although the firings were apparently unconnected with the ongoing dispute over pay, we believe that this was an act of retaliation and a preemptive move by management ahead of a case over low pay being brought against Eugen Systems by 15 employees as well as the STJV. The case is due to go before the labour tribunal in March 2019.
The dispute began towards the end of 2016 when Eugen Systems workers discovered they were being paid less than the mandated minimums set out by their employment contracts, which are governed by national pay agreement that covers the IT sector, including video game workers. Eugen workers asked for back pay and salary adjustments to bring their pay into line with the legal minimums.
A typical example is one Eugen Systems employee with a Master’s degree in games and two years’ industry experience who was being paid a salary of around 21,600 € (24,777 USD) per year. Such a salary is well under the already low minim um salary applicable in France for such a worker, which is around 28,200 € (32,348 USD).
On February 14th, 2018, after 15 months of negotiations that had gone nowhere, almost half the studio (21 workers out of a remaining 44 by that time) decided to take strike action upon receiving yet another pay slip showing they had been paid less than they were entitled to.
The strike ended on April 3rd, after having garnered international press coverage and support. With no progress made, the dispute was taken to the labour tribunal.
Low pay is a serious problem in the French games industry. This is particularly felt by game developers working in Paris, which is one of the world’s most expensive cities. Eugen Systems’ studio is located in central Paris.
The 6 workers were ostensibly fired for having negatively affected the mood (“dégradé l’ambiance”) of the studio and used insulting language in a conversation that took place in a private chat channel. All 6 were participants in this year’s strike.