For a fairer video game industry

While waiting for workers to have full control over their work, here, in the run-up to the 2022 presidential and legislative elections, are 8 proposals from the Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo to improve our industry.

1. Reduce working time: switch to a 4-day/28-hour work week with no income loss

Reducing working hours is a historical trend in the economic organisation, thanks to past struggles, which allows workers to gain time to live outside their jobs and to rest. This measure, which is perfectly suited to our industry, is spreading, as evidenced by its adoption by studios of all sizes such as Eidos-Montreal, Die Gute Fabrik, Young Horses and Armor Games, and must become the norm.

2. Effectively make permanent contracts (CDI) the norm, with no exceptions

Abusive uses of fixed-term contracts must be stopped once and for all, especially as a “disguised trial period”, a widespread practice, particularly in the largest French studios. Similarly, the use of other types of contracts and statuses, rarely justified in the video game industry, must be highly regulated and strictly limited to cases where they are explicitly requested by the relevant workers: companies must not propose them on their own.

It is also necessary to allow access to part-time work when workers request it, to take into account everyone’s needs.

3. Make paid and sick leave unlimited, abolish waiting periods and maintain 100% of the salary

As there are countless reasons for having to stop work temporarily to rest, care for oneself, one’s loved ones, etc., it is necessary that leave be unlimited as well, with a minimum annual number of days of leave to be taken. It is particularly crucial to remove the waiting period for sick leaves and compensate them 100%, in order to remove any obstacle to the needed use of these leaves.

In the absence of unlimited holidays, partial coverage of these needs can be achieved with: a 6th week of paid leave; longer, equal and compulsory maternity/paternity leave; the carry over of public holidays falling on a weekend to the previous Friday or the following Monday.

4. Strengthen the power of workers’ representatives, democracy and transparency in companies

Companies are anti-democratic environments by definition, and it is important to change this situation by involving workers in the life of the company and by strengthening the role of their elected representatives.

This includes granting a veto right for staff representatives on anything that already legally requires consultation, enabling workers to have their rights defended by their representatives.

This also requires a reform of the CSE elections to open them up to as many people as possible, by opening up the possibility of running for a CSE seat as soon as the trial period ends, and the possibility of voting in the CSE elections for anyone who has been working for the company for more than 3 months, whatever their status (thus including in particular freelancers, temps, contract workers…).

Since wages are a particular area of discrimination in companies, it is necessary to make the wage grids public, including their evolution with years of experience and inflation, and have them be voted by employees to put an end to it.

Democracy requires time to discuss, debate, and take decisions together, and therefore the allocation for all workers of part of the working time for life and democracy in the company, and the increase of delegation hours for staff representatives.

5. Give workers the power to choose the message and content of their work, and the technologies used

The video game industry, like all industries, loves secrecy and authoritarian power, and imposes choices on workers that go against their ideals or identities. In studios in particular, the design and pre-production phases are conducted behind closed doors or in small committees, with some workers considered “non-creative” or at the bottom of the ladder being systematically sidelined even though their work contributes just as much to the final result. All hierarchical levels and all professions must be involved in the pre-production of video games.

In the same way, it is necessary to impose a systematic consultation of workers on the content of games, on their economic mechanisms and technologies, on the games signed by publishers, and on clients and to attach to it a veto right for workers to be able to collectively reject a project, a feature, a technology or a particular client.

To make this effective, internal transparency on contracts passed with external actors and the relationship with publishers/groups/clients must be total.

6. Make hiring procedures transparent, accessible and non-discriminatory

In video games, hiring procedures are an excuse for all kinds of abuses. This must stop, in particular by ensuring that interviews and job tests must be carried out within a reasonable and very short time: no more tests that take days or weeks to complete. To prevent their exploitation as free labour, these hiring tests must be removed from the company’s final production, and a non-commercial exploitation agreement must be enforced.

To end wage discrimination in hiring, disclosure of the salary and status of the position sought should be made mandatory in job offers.

7. End the exploitation of freelancers and subcontractors through equal rights and working conditions

The video game industry largely relies on the exploitation of poor workers, and very often the improvement of working conditions in Western countries is done by subcontracting suffering abroad. This unacceptable situation must be countered: outsourcing contracts must guarantee that subcontracting workers are paid and treated in the same way as the workers of the contracting company.

Companies also engage in local social dumping by pitting freelancers in France against each other. Contracts of this type must become standardised and public, to ensure transparency and equality between the different freelancers hired.

8. Enforce and strengthen the control of public subsidies, integrate workers’ unions in the awarding commissions

From our direct experiences, it is clear that companies do not like to comply with rules so, in addition to imposing new ones, we need to ensure that they are enforced. The French video game industry is dependent on public funding, in particular from the CNC, to function. This funding, which is most welcome, already requires companies to comply with legislation and to fight against harassment, but without any control. In practice, the state therefore continues to subsidise companies that do not respect any of the eligibility criteria. The requirements for such subsidies must be systematically controlled before any money is paid out.

In addition to the effective deployment of controls, companies must be made more accountable through stronger sanctions in the event of non-compliance with the law. Any judgment against a company must lead to the reimbursement of subsidies received, and to the ineligibility for future subsidies. The law (especially labour law) is being violated across the board and this must stop.

To force companies to put an end to practices that are far too widespread in our industry and that disadvantage workers, contractual commitments must be extended to diversity in hiring, the limitation of turnover, compliance with labour relations and the improvement of working conditions throughout production.

Finally, workers must not be kept away from these transactions. Workers’ representatives must be consulted during controls and unions must be included in the subsidies’ awarding commissions.