March 8, 2024 feminist strike: putting an end to the obstacles to the recognition of sexual and gender-based violence in the video game industry

March 8 is the international day of action for the rights of women and gender minorities, which celebrates the historical and current battles of feminism. Women and marginalised genders are and always have been present in social conflicts: March 8 is itself the anniversary of the 1917 strike by women workers in St Petersburg, which sparked off the Russian revolutions.

Last year, by force of circumstance, March 8 was included in the more global movement against the pension reform. The authoritarianism of the French government and the forced passage of this reform were a severe defeat for the rights of women and marginalised genders: the government’s own studies show that the negative impacts of this reform are doubled for women.

This year, March 8 is taking place in a very dramatic context. In our industry, we are seriously concerned about the consequences on women of the massive waves of layoffs that are currently taking place. Most of the jobs being eliminated are precarious, disproportionately occupied by people of marginalised genders, who will also have to endure discrimination when looking for work.

Women and queer people have also been instrumentalised for months to justify Israel’s genocidal policy against Palestinians. Our Palestinian brothers and sisters are being slaughtered before the eyes of the whole world, and they would have us believe that Israeli crimes are positive. What benefits do Palestinian women and queer people derive from starvation, disease, the eradication of their own people, their own deaths?

The very existence of genocidal colonial systems is incompatible with the freedom of people of marginalised gender. There can be no liberation of women and queer people without the liberation of Palestine. This March 8 will also be an opportunity to support them.

However, there have also been some improvements, for example:

  • Spain was the first country in Europe to introduce menstrual leave. This long-awaited right has been the subject of a draft law in France and is one of the STJV’s demands, which has been systematically refused by companies.
  • Thanks to the mobilisation of feminist movements across the country, Mexico has finally legalised abortion at federal level. Fighting wins.

Generally speaking, we can see that in France, despite all the obstacles, more and more people are speaking out. We’re obviously thinking of the film industry, but this is also the case all across society. The subject of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is finally emerging as a public social issue, for the benefit of all those who are subjected to it. We welcome and support these initiatives.

Companies and schools: inclusive in words, sexist in deeds

Since last year, the friendly facade of video game schools and companies has collided head-on with worker representatives. Everywhere, all it takes is a few questions to confuse management and confirm what we already knew: behind the words, there is nothing. No monitoring of sexist and sexual violence, no warning systems, no measures to combat discrimination…

By refusing to respond, but also by reformulating all the proposals and demands of workers and unions to remove any concrete and useful vocabulary in favour of completely meaningless managerial phrases, bosses are actively fighting to deny the existence of problems. They do this consciously, to prevent workers from rationalising these problems and being able to act upon them.

In response to our calls for clear and unambiguous processes to combat SGBV and discrimination at work, we are told that “the doors of HR or management are always open”. By brushing aside the role of management itself and denying staff representatives the ability to take action, they isolate victims and single out cases of violence, in order to undermine them and prevent a more global approach.

Far from being innocent or thoughtless, these practices of referring to an oppressive system (the company hierarchy) which has a clear interest in keeping violence hidden, are silencing victims and witnesses. The “open door” is at best a naive dead end, at worst discriminatory violence itself.

Unions, workers and workers’ representatives engaged in an ongoing struggle

Workers have tools at their disposal to combat SGBV and discrimination: it is the role of the CSE (~workers’ council) to monitor the integrity of management, to offer a practical, on-the-ground response via its anti-harassment advisers, to sound the alarm and not to lose sight of risk indicators. This workers’ representatives body has the power to report problems to health and safety inspectors and to initiate investigations through its reporting rights.

In companies where the STJV is representative after a victory in the CSE elections, the union sections address these subjects within compulsory annual negotiations on professional equality (and therefore gender equality). By law, this is a time to discuss the fight against discrimination, and to negotiate or even impose more by building a balance of power in favour of workers.

Problem: these negotiations are systematically blocked by company managers. Recently, comrades denounced the blocking of negotiations and workers’ representatives at Don’t Nod, and workers at Ubisoft went on strike in reaction to the absence of any real wage negotiations on the part of the group’s management. These elements made public are accompanied across the industry by a multitude of other struggles, including strikes, which have remained private for the time being. The discontent is widespread.

By blocking negotiations on gender equality, by postponing them on the pretext that it is a “less urgent” subject, by ignoring workers’ representatives, the bosses refuse to let workers express themselves or to listen to their demands. They prefer to ” observe the absence” of harassment, violence or discrimination and pretend that everything is fine.

Willful ignorance is not an anti-discrimination policy, but an extreme form of additional violence. It sends a message to victims of SGBV that the violence and discrimination they suffer does not count and will not be resolved in their workplace.

Tearing down existing barriers

Workers’ demands in the video game industry are simple, and it’s almost mind-boggling that we have to make them in the first place:

  • company management must actually listen to workers, and therefore take the feedback from their representatives‧es seriously and respect negotiations ;
  • concrete processes for gathering data and information must be put in place, so that they can then be provided to staff representatives ;
  • this second point must be accompanied by the public availability of non-personal statistics and data, and in particular the introduction of pay scales ;
  • to prevent the silencing of workers, real internal feedback, alert and investigation processes must be created that include worker representation bodies.

In short and to be perfectly clear: we demand that company executives stop caring about marginalised genders only to use them as a stepping stone for their company’s image, their personal careers or to maximise profits.

As we argued last year in a review of our industry and our role, the fight against gender oppression will be fought through unions. This assertion stems from the realisation that our rights will never be won without a fight.

The Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo is therefore calling for strikes in the video game industry on Friday 8 March 2024. We call on workers, unemployed people, pensioners and students from the video game industry to mobilise in companies, and to join the demonstrations that will take place everywhere in France on that day.

This call covers the STJV’s field of action in the private sector, and therefore applies to any person employed by a video game publishing, distribution, services and/or creation company, whatever their position or status and whatever their company’s area of activity (games, consoles, mobile, serious games, VR/AR, game engines, marketing services, streaming, derivative products, esports, online content creation, etc.), as well as to all teachers working in private schools in video game-related courses. As this is a national strike call, no action is necessary to go on strike: just don’t come to work.

Comptes - Le Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo
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