Eugen Systems sacks 6 workers involved in ongoing pay dispute

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.

6 weeks of struggle at Eugen Systems

We are once again relaying a communiqué written by our fellow strikers from the Parisian studio Eugen Systems. You can support them through their strike fund, all participations are welcome : https://www.lepotcommun.fr/pot/kfy5g3ta

[Version française]

Escalation

After 6 weeks on strike and an obvious lack of will to change the situation, Eugen Systems’s management finally show their true colours and aren’t trying to hide the fact they have no intention negotiating anymore.
Our last meeting of Friday, March 23rd lasted only a quarter of an hour. And for good reason, confronted with systematic rejection from management, we asked whether they would accept to negotiate anything. Their answer was brief and precise: no.

The previous meeting happened on the 21st of March. Management had unilaterally written an end of strike agreement draft, with all our demands either ignored or denied and stating that the strike was useless because the discussion had always been open. Quite bold of them after having ignored the strikers for two weeks and most of the observations brought to them by the personnel’s representatives for more than a year.

In this draft, management puts forward the efforts they agree to make that would justify the end of the strike. These promises are mainly legal obligations that should have been fulfilled without us asking for them.

  • Bring us proof that occupational medicine will be paid correctly next year. Contributing to occupational medicine is a legal obligation, we should not need such a promise to be sure it is done.
  • Install a break room at each floor of the premises to have room for enough people. This is once more a legal obligation and hadn’t even been mentioned in the context of the strike.
  • A promise of a future company agreement on job classifications. A discussion on that point was already planned. Furthermore, before discussing new classifications maybe it would be better to start by respecting those which are due to us?
  • Detail the calculations for the few wages that were caught up and for the holiday bonuses over a span of 3 years. This is the length of the legal prescription a tribunal would impose, with compensation. Knowing that the bonuses have never been paid, what about the previous years?
  • Counting the hours of negotiation as hours worked for the 4 members of the workers’ delegation. This is, once more, a legal obligation.

The strike began because of non-compliance with the law, management trying to pass its partial application as a charitable gesture on their part does not deceive us.

All our proposals have been denied, even those that did not create additional cost for the employer.
For example, they refused spreading the docking of wages from days on strike over several months, a standard compromise that would leave us with enough to live each month.
To justify this refusal, we were told that it was not a question of money.

Furthermore, after we insisted, management signed a written agreement the 5th of March to pay the mandatory contribution to occupational medicine and to bring us proof of payment as soon as it was done. The payment is dated the 12th of March, and management deigned to bring us proof only on the meeting of the 21st, so 9 days after the payment. Management seems to have a few difficulties respecting signed agreements.

Since neither negotiation nor strike seems to be affecting our employers and that compliance with the law seems to be an exaggerated demand from their point of view, we consider that it is time to harden our methods.
About fifteen previous and current employees of Eugen Systems have initiated a procedure with the prud’hommes (labour tribunal of justice). However, this only concerns previous litigations and will not help solve the background problems about working conditions and consideration for the work provided.

These 6 weeks of strike have not been entirely unsuccessful, however: we were able to consult each other, link up with organizations and people. Our situation is not unique, and many other companies take advantage of their employees’ passion to put in place working conditions that are illegal.
We invite every person, group and association that see in our struggle a just fight to help us, however the means: mediatically by sharing the articles talking about our situation, financially via the strike fund, morally with your messages of support and by testifying to the legitimacy of this struggle on social networks, with your advice, support, etc. Any help you can bring is more than welcome.

About the strike fund

We have done a first repartition of the strike fund after a month on strike (mid-March). At that moment, the amount in the strike fund was of 8070€ from 182 contributors, and 550€ of direct donations. For complete transparency here is our method of distribution:

  • Integral compensation of the strike’s cost to people that couldn’t do without. These people were able to bring active support to our movement for a while despite their financial difficulties entirely thanks to you.
  • Counting number of days everyone was on strike, coming to a total of 292 days.
  • Every non-reimbursed striker was able to indicate how much of their share they wished to receive. This let people leave a part of their compensation for others, on a purely voluntary basis, everyone receiving all of their compensation as default. There was a total of 261 shares.
  • Individual compensation equivalent to the number of shares multiplied by the value of a share. This comes to, for someone having been on strike the whole month and who didn’t redistribute their shares a sum of approximately 630€.

Thank you all for your messages of support and your donations. They help us to hold on and remind us that our cause is just, our action necessary.

Eugen Systems strike workers

Already more than 3 weeks on strike at Eugen Systems

We are once again relaying a communiqué written by our fellow strikers from the Parisian studio Eugen Systems. You can support them through their strike fund, all participations are welcome : https://www.lepotcommun.fr/pot/kfy5g3ta

[Version française]

 

Weeks of Conflict

We started our strike on February 14, more than 3 weeks ago. 16 months of contestation already.

On Wednesday February 28, after two weeks on strike, the management finally addressed us directly, offering to meet with a strike delegation to discuss.
We made ourselves available the next morning, yet we had to wait until Monday March 5 for the first meeting with management to take place, as the management refused to accept proposals of earlier dates. Once again, we can only note the lack of consideration for the urgency of the situation.

Our delegation therefore met with management on Monday morning, March 5, in the presence of the Labour Inspector as mediator.
We start the meeting by mentioning that our employer did not contribute to occupational medecine for 2018, which is mandatory according to French labour laws.
What is described as an oversight due to an unreceived invoice is extremely problematic: some of our colleagues are in the middle of burnouts and depressions, and the non-payment of these contributions prevents, for example, occupational medicine from planning preventive medical check-ups for other employees. Management assures us that it has requested to receive the invoice again, and is committed to paying it as soon as possible. At the time of writing this on March 9, it is still not the case.

As far as our complaints and demands are concerned, the management’s answer is simple: no. The current and past irregularities are still denied by management, and none of the proposals we have made are even considered an instant.
Management has indicated on numerous occasions that it considers certain contracts to be old or incorrect and therefore would not have to comply with them. For example, it considers that creative professions (game designers, graphic designers, level builders, etc.) do not need training and that these employees would be overqualified by their specialized training, often at the Master’s degree level.
The meeting was reconvened the next morning, so that management could take the time to prepare a proposed classification grid for the company’s positions.

On Tuesday 6, we received this proposal as a draft, incomplete – only programming jobs are mentioned – and filled with errors. We consider that this proposal from management is not serious, but even worse, it contains elements that are far less interesting for the employees than what is currently practised in the company. Funny way to negotiate.
Since it is only in draft form, we do not publish details, but express our mistrust of it. The fact that the grid only concerns certain trades and that it is still in the draft stage suggests that management is still trying to gain some time.

On several occasions during these meetings, we have been accused of spreading lies through our communiqués and not controlling the publications of journalists and users of social networks: management seems to ignore that we do not control public opinion, even though they refuse the right of reply journalists offered them.
We asked for specific references of what they disputed in our communiqués, but received no concrete response.

Since then, we have not had any other proposal for a meeting, and the management refused ours on Friday March 9, without even bothering to explain the reasons.

We are still waiting for management to recognize the seriousness of the issues raised and to demonstrate its willingness to resolve the conflict. It is unthinkable to continue denying irregularities and at the same time try to further reduce our working conditions.

Thank you again for the messages of support and donations that help us so much!

 

Eugen Systems strike workers

Eugen Systems strike workers are holding on

We are once again relaying a communiqué written by our fellow strikers from the Parisian studio Eugen Systems. You can support them through their strike fund, all participations are welcome : https://www.lepotcommun.fr/pot/kfy5g3ta

They confirmed their strike continues on Thursday 22 February.

[Version française]

Still Division

We have been on strike for a week now.

Every day we receive messages of support from players and people working in the industry, from France and abroad. They remind us that the problems we are currently concerned with are not restricted to our company but are much more common, even if the symptoms may differ. We are very moved by these messages that give meaning to the struggle we are forced to wage today. Nor do we forget the people who are currently experiencing similar situations in other industries or in the public sector.

Our demands are about the application of law, especially concerning our salaries. But the problems we face seem to be rooted in a deeper phenomenon: a lack of appreciation for the work we do every day. All of us would seemingly be perfectly replaceable tools. Our know-how, experience, qualities and qualifications are obviously parameters that shouldn’t be taken into account.

Yet who designs games, creates them, enriches them with content, and ensures they function properly?

At this time, we have yet to receive any kind of response or proposal from the management of Eugen Systems.
We regret that they continue to bury their faces in the sand after fifteen months of desperate attempts to draw attention to the seriousness of the problems we face and the need to find a solution that also takes into account the interests of employees, not just those of management. When these solutions involve an unilateral reduction in wages, a second-guessing of the grades and qualifications of employees, or the negation of essential elements of their employment contracts, they are obviously unacceptable.

As we told our studio management earlier this week, we are not taking any pleasure in the fire that occurred in the building housing the company’s premises, which brought production to a halt. Our strike carries on nonetheless and we are still waiting for our demands to be met, which, let us not forget, are nothing extraordinary: the fair appreciation of our work and the consideration of our legal and contractual rights.

 

Eugen Systems strike workers

Eugen Systems employees on strike

We relay a statement from our colleagues on strike at Eugen Systems, the studio from Paris.

EDIT : a strike fund has been setup, all participations are welcome: https://www.lepotcommun.fr/pot/kfy5g3ta

Act of Strike

On this February 14 th 2018, we, 21 employees of Eugen Systems, decided to go on strike. On this date we might be tempted to say that we preferred to flatter the loved one instead of going to our workplace as it should be. This is not the case, even if we are animated by a certain passion, it is actually tinged with fury.

We have been discussing serious violations of our rights with management for almost 15 months now. Like anyone else in our place, we assumed that dialogue and reason would be more effective than direct confrontation. After all, an employer should be able to understand that the law is what it is, and that it is legitimate for its employees to demand that it be enforced, including for their benefit. Faced with the wall that was set up against us during the first six months of negotiations, we were forced to call in a lawyer to remind our employer of the law. To remind that minimum wages are not subject to negotiation and that neither are our qualifications, our employment contracts, or the law. These demands are far from unacceptable. For every answer we were given promises, “everything will be settled” we were told. Naive as we are, we believed it.

Even more naively, we continued to believe in it for many more months, but on the morning of February the 14th we came to realise an obvious fact that no longer escaped anybody: enough is enough.

When we arrived at the office, each of us discovered several e-mails on our professional mailboxes: first of all a collective e-mail indicating that our overtime, which had not been paid up until then, a contentious subject since the beginning, was absent from our pay slips only because of the fault of our two successive payroll managers. In short, what we considered as an infringement of our rights is now presented to us as an administrative error. As a result, our gross salaries have been reduced so that our overtime can be justified without even regularizing our situations by a penny. Even though these new gross salaries are considered to be below the legal minimums for several employees.

Additionnally, several employees were notified in another e-mail that the conditions specifically mentioned in their employment contract, as well as in the collective agreement, were not recognized as legitimate by management. The latter justifiying not granting them the grades, salaries and associated benefits. What a joy, for example, for a developer with several years of experience and an engineer’s job, to arrive one morning and see that he now has the status and rank of a technician, with the lowered salary accompanying it.

This new evasive maneuver from management has inflamed the situation: in the face of the refusal to pay us as required by law, and the manifest lack of consideration for the value of our work, we have come to the conclusion that, in order to make ourselves heard, we have no option but to go on strike.

We did not want the conflict, and we were even prepared to accept a number of compromises. But in the face of such a lack of respect, all that remains is to make use of our most fundamental rights, which, if we fail to resolve all the problems we are confronted with, will hopefully have the merit ofdrawing the attention of players, public opinion or elected representatives to the catastrophic situation in the industry for which we are working.

 

The striking employees of Eugen Systems, who if it needs to be reminded are not NPCs