Performance reviews & wages at Ubisoft : We want fairness !

This statement was written by French Ubisoft employees, including the STJV sections at Ubisoft Annecy, Ubisoft Montpellier and Ubisoft Paris, and adresses the situations we face in our day-to-day lives. While our conclusions may not apply to everyone within the company (due to legal differences between countries, for example), we believe that the principles described here remain valid and would be happy to get in touch with workers leading similar struggles outside of France.

To our fellow workers at Ubisoft,

As you surely know, we just went through the performance reviews and wage raises period, which comes with its share of questions. Since we know this situation all too well, the STJV members who work at Ubisoft have put together their thoughts and observations, and we wish to share them with you.

Let’s start with some analysis. Compensation policy is a complex topic, and to us it seems that Ubisoft top management is counting on diffusion of responsibility to skirt criticism. The process as it is presented to us is that HQ negotiates a remuneration budget with local HR, who then attribute it to projects. Managers would then attribute raises to their teams based on all that.

This process makes it so no one can really be held accountable for the decisions. HQ can explain that local HR didn’t argue their case well, local HR can explain that HQ didn’t allocate a good enough budget, managers can explain that HR didn’t give them any leeway…At the end of the day, the buck gets passed endlessly, and an individual’s wage is presented as an established fact, as if nothing could be done about it.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, we reject the explicit link between one’s performance review and their raise. This may seem counter-intuitive: if someone makes efforts and improves their professional skills, shouldn’t they be rewarded? And yet, we believe that this causes two major problems.

  • First, this doesn’t solve the inequalities that are created at hiring level, arising from discrimination, from circumstances that make it so some local Ubisoft entities can afford to hire at a higher wage than others, or other elements that shouldn’t have such an impact.
    Raises are proportional to the current salary and only deepen existing inequalities : we want to center the debate on the value of wages.
  • Moreover, since the total amount of raises is capped, creating a zero-sum game where managers have to apply evaluation “quotas” and justify (sometimes poorly) underrated performances. As if their teams could never have globally overperformed over the past year.

It is also important to point out that even with all of the decorum surrounding performance reviews, the standards used to evaluate us aren’t always easy to track or anticipate. Evaluation criteria are vague at best, and pre-requisites for seniority or position progression never made explicit. This only serves to reinforce a feeling of arbitrariness that frustrates everyone in the company, to the notable exception of the top management that can justify any of their decisions by leveraging this vagueness.


Thus, we make the following demands :

  • Individual performance reviews should no longer be directly tied to wages. Compensation is limited by budgets which are, by definition, finite, whereas a whole team (or even a whole entity within the group) could very well have met and even exceeded expectations.
    • It follows that evaluations should no longer be limited by quotas.
    • Performance reviews should only be established by someone’s direct manager. That some of us are evaluated by their higher hierarchy, or that HR would be able to modify a manager’s assessment, is abnormal. Decorrelating wages and evaluation would allow the latter to be used for its original purpose as a tool of personal progression.
    • Finally, performance reviews should come with training opportunities, in order to allow everyone to get better at their jobs and keep sharpening their skills.
  • Seniority level progression conditions should be made explicit. This kind of acknowledgement is very important in our industry, and it is unacceptable that some may be left out on that front despite having good reviews.
    • More precisely, not only should the expected skills to obtain a given seniority level be made clear, the means through which to nurture said skills and have them acknowledged at Ubisoft should also be clearer.
    • It is certain that, once the previous need has been met, some people will find themselves with a job title that does not match their actual skills. Such discrepancies would have to be corrected through the appropriate promotions.
  • We want equal pay for equal work. This requires the following:
    • Obviously, we oppose any kind of discrimination in salary. Particularly, no one should ever be paid less for belonging to a marginalized group (as the law already forbids!).
    • Transparency in wages is vital. HR have adopted a very ambiguous stance: they pretend that there is no salary guidance grid and explain that wages are left to individual negotiations, but through opacity and rigidity make it so most of those demands are not met. Who stands to gain from this misdirection?
  • An impartial process must be created to guarantee accountability in case of dispute. We must make sure that each worker is fairly compensated for the value they create for Ubisoft (thus making it one of the leaders in the market), and that an end is put to all arbitrary and discriminatory practices.
    • Any employee should be able to request to be reevaluated by a neutral third party, based on criteria now made explicit and a transparent salary grid.
    • Outside of the control of local direction and HR.

Ubisoft is a very wealthy company, and is not shy about it. This makes any situation where employees face precariousness unacceptable. Our statement establishes our guidelines on this topic for future actions.

We invite everyone who works at Ubisoft to contact us if you want to join our efforts, or discuss this topics with us. In particular, we invite all Ubisoft employees who have noticed discrepancies or discriminations against them during the last review period to contact their union representatives or to write us directly at contact@stjv.fr. The STJV stands ready to defend anyone who needs our help within the industry, whether unionized or not. We are stronger together!

National day of action against the far-right – Saturday, 12th June 2021

Those who have been following political news closely in the past few years have been able to witness French politics’ shift toward the right. For a few years now, “anti-terrorists” laws have been piling up, using the (legitimate) fear caused by terrorist attacks to reduce everyone’s rights, attack the justice system and pave the way for an authoritarian regime. This slippery slope recently accelerated, with a government adopting the vocabulary and ideas of the far-right, appointing ministers close to royalist, antisemitic organisations and accused of rape, and answering to every social problem with the only mean left according to their policies in favor of the rich : brute force.

As a consequence, many fascist organisations are coming out in the open, multiplying violent attacks agains leftist activists and organisations, and against democratic institutions (invasion of the Occitanie regional parliament, threats against elected officials). Corporatist police “unions” are multiplying actions, most of the time illegal ones, to explicitly ask for the abolition of the constitution and the declaration of the human rights, in order to satisfy their fascist thirst for violence. Army officers, backed by politicians and newspapers, are publicly calling for a military coup explicitly targeting muslims and the politcal left. All of this is happening with no consequences for the people involved and no reaction from the french presidential cabinet, on the contrary they are getting support from political and media figures.

The role of video games in the right-wing radicalisation of society is not negligible. Video games, currently one of the main media, have notably been corrupted by their links with armies and weapon dealers since the beginning of their existence. These organisations have been financing and using games to push their nationalist propaganda, “sell” imperialist wars to the public and normalise their violence. If representation in video games is progressing the right way, although too slowly and too shyly, the messages of popular games are almost always problematic and actively contribute to discriminations and the fascist atmosphere.

The voluntary subordination, because of capitalist motives, of a part of the industry to a fringe of the online far-right stemming from the gamergate, and to authoritarian governments’ interests is still weighing heavily on our industry. As video game workers our role in the rise of the far-right is sadly not trivial, but we can act collectively to fight against it and eventually tip the scales. This will be done, in part, by taking back power over our productions, and therefore by getting more democracy at our workplaces.

The worrying political atmosphere we live in must push us to stay active, united, and to join with other leftist organisations to put a stop the the far-right. Regreting the fact that anti-racist organisations, which have been fighting police violence and islamophobia for decades, haven’t been included from the start, and disagreeing with the inclusion of a police union, the STJV nonetheless, considering the urgency of the situation, joins the call for liberty and against far-right ideas co-signed by many political organistions, unions and media. We are inviting everyone to join the protests taking place all around France on June 12th.

Forcing workers back in offices is (still) irresponsible

Just like in June last year or last September, we can see looming in the near future a disorganised situation of workers coming back to offices caused, among other things, by blurry government guidelines.

If the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be slowly, but surely, winding down in France, the virus is still circulating and people are still dying from this disease every day. Worse yet, if we look at the United Kingdom, a country where the number of Covid cases fell down as well, we see that recently it started to rise again because of new variants, making epidemiologists worried. The main takeaway from 2020 is that we need to avoid rushed decisions !

This is, however, what we are witnessing at several video game companies. The eagerness of some french bosses to make workers come back to their offices is shameful. It reveals, at best, a hasty and simplistic understanding of the situation, and at worst a disgusting priorisation of hypothetical profits and a will to exert power over workers. Whatever the reason, it jeopardizes the health not only of video game workers but the population in general.

It is natural and understandable that many of us are eager to come back to a “normal” life. After more than one year of lockdowns, curfews and various other restrictions, who wouldn’t want to blow off steam ? But if we really want to control the pandemic, to prevent as many deaths as possible and to finally allow healthcare workers to breathe, then it would be irresponsible to not make the return to our “old habits” slow and gradual.

The STJV is firmly advising all video game companies to :

  • Let workers choose, without justification, between working from home, at the office or any solution in between, at least through the summer and then depending on the epidemic situation ;
  • Keep all the required sanitary measures in place, in particular by setting a maximum threshold of people present, to limit contaminations at work as much as possible ;
  • Allow workers to get vaccinated during work hours, without penalties and therefore without forcing them to use time off and holidays, to remove as many obstacles to this vaccination as possible.

The STJV will keep watch over the following events, and especially over the video game industry’s companies’ behaviour. We are always available for anyone who may need our help, or who would have questions about their company situation or their own. Don’t hesitate to contact us at contact@stjv.fr

Major layoffs at Blizzard France

While Activision-Blizzard recorded a turnover of 3.6 billion US dollars over the first two quarters of 2020, which included 913 million dollars coming directly from Blizzard games, the group recently announced a new layoff plan at Blizzard France, intending to close its Versailles offices and ending all activity in France without any economical reason.

This plan comes after Activision-Blizzard repeatedly denied any intention to close its French branch after earlier layoffs in 2019. A great number of employees are now at risk of finding themselves without a job in a particularly precarious economical and social context, in the middle of a health crisis, even though they kept working relentlessly through the lockdowns and beyond.

As the CGT, SPECIS-UNSA and CFE-CGC unions at Blizzard France point out, allegations of maintaining competitivity actually hide a tax avoidance scheme, which doesn’t take into account any human issues.

Solidaires Informatique and the STJV maintain their categorical opposition to any layoff, whatever their motive.

We stand in solidarity with the workers at Blizzard France and extend our full support toward any action they will take against these wrongful layoffs.

The call to strike issued by the unions at Blizzard France on October 13th is available here :

Discriminations in the video games industry: systemic problems require collective solutions

Waves of accusations of sexism, harassment, LGBTphobia and other forms of discriminations in our industry keep repeating and, even though their scale increases, the process stays unchanged. A few people raise their voice, putting their careers, financial stability, and mental health at risk. This in turn liberates others and motivates them to speak up as well. A few particularly toxic predators become the public face of the problem. Companies react by silencing the ensuing media storm and/or by firing the problematic persons (when they didn’t quit by themselves), without really changing their internal structure. At the end of the day, studios and aggressors suffer no real consequences, especially from a legal standpoint.

Multiple oppressions

It is noticeably clear that there are mechanisms in place to protect predators in the video games industry, just like in other sectors. Those lead to complete impunity for the people at the top of the chain. Conversely, younger and more precarious people form the bulk of the industry’s workers, yet they are seen as dispensable, which heightens their vulnerability and makes it virtually impossible for them to defend themselves from aggressions.

This is compounded by the low proportion of women in studios (in France, on average, they make up about 14% of the video game industry’s workforce), the culture of crunch and secrecy, as well as the industry’s employment pressure (“You’re lucky to have this job, if we need to replace you we’ll find 10 other people who are willing to”), all of which makes it harder for workers to oppose sexism. Not only are these elements fundamentally unbearable, they also worsen the violence enacted upon women and minorities. In a society where social roles unfortunately remain gendered and where women are still burdened with most of the day-to-day tasks, these industry practices put an overwhelming pressure on said women, which makes them even more likely to stay silent. The stakes, and therefore the risks, are much higher for people who are not men.

A toxic culture reinforced by its structural aspects

We believe the French video games industry is just like in other countries, and we know its structure does not encourage victims of harassment or sexual aggressions to speak up nor report these behaviours. The STJV regularly receives reports and grievances, by mail or through conversations, about working conditions and the everyday life within companies in general, and about sexism and sexual harassment in particular. Yet it is very rare for this kind of affair to be made public. This omerta is partly due to the concentration of power in the hands of employers and their organisations.

One can find the same kind of institutions, employer organisations, at the helm of every big industry event in France: the SNJV is behind the Gamecamp and the Pégases ; Capital Games organises IndieCade Europe and Game Connection Europe ; the SELL manages the Paris Games Week, etc. These spaces meant for showcasing your work, meeting other people from the industry and exchanging with them, are therefore managed by groups whose priorities do not align with forcing employers to solve their harassment problems as quickly as possible.

The importance of these meeting spaces (and of all their local, informal equivalents) in a video games career makes them rarely safe places, in which predators can use their power and connections to abuse others.

Company parties, another regular occurrence in the stories we hear, bar meet-ups or conference parties are not specific places where bad behaviours suddenly emerge, they are instead a magnifying lens that shines a light on the actual day-to-day reality of the industry. Matters are made worse there by the fact workers, overburdened with mismanaged quantities of work and omnipresent pressure, end up using those moments to let loose in a festive atmosphere, which makes them even more vulnerable.

This kind of behaviours also fit very closely to the testimonies we receive about the French video game schools. How could one expect meaningful change if students are taught before they even get hired that crunch is to be expected, that parties are an outlet, and that sexual wrongdoings are not punished?

While there are specificities, video games studios are not the only places where sexism and other discriminations run rampant. The problem is pervasive to our whole society, and it has to be addressed at every level.

When no other solution works, public call-outs are the last resort

The recent accounts point specifically to HR departments being at best passive, and at worst complicit in covering for aggressors. HR is presented as the first line of defence in situations of harassment or discrimination, yet they end up working against victims. That this many complaints did not lead to swift and efficient action is absurd. Let us remind all workers that, in France, employers have a legal obligation of results when it comes to protecting employees. They must use any and all measures available to prevent problems like harassment, and put an end to it as soon as possible if it still happens, and are legally liable if these measures fail.

The employees’ situations are made harder to cope with because legal complaints of harassment or sexual aggressions are extremely hard to follow through (be it because of the police refusing to open cases, or because legal proceedings are slow and rarely reach a conclusion). The global trend in diminishing the budgets of French employee protection institutions does not help the situation. It ends up being an unsurmountable task to actually face companies in court, when they have all the means necessary to defend themselves.

How can it be a surprise to anyone, then, that in the absence of any other channel, victims turn to social networks and broadcast their calls for help in the form of call-outs?

Crisis management over meaningful change

With employee defence groups being historically absent from the video games industry, companies have gotten away with ignoring their duties, worsening even further the isolation and precariousness victims are faced with. Recent initiatives such as the STJV aim at upending that situation.

When faced with call-outs, the studios’ first reaction is to protect their brand image. This is primarily geared towards consumers and financing firms, but also because they want to preserve the very widespread (and wildly misleading) idea that the industry is an informal place with a welcoming and safe atmosphere. To react to the call-outs and recognize that sexism is a reality of our industry would destroy this idyllic image that employer lobbies worked very hard to craft over the years. Admitting that there is a sexism problem in the company is admitting the employer’s responsibility, and weakens the position of some of the people of power in the studio. That is a step very few executives are willing to take.

While there have been sparse efforts, the situation mostly stagnates. More and more employees speak up and are aware of the problems in their studios but, as long as no structural change is enacted, no real evolution will happen. Most executives refuse to reconsider the way their studios work because of financial and managerial frictions, and because it would also question their own reactions and attitudes towards discriminations. Only a few independent studios have really managed to tackle these issues, but we attribute that ability to their small size, which means a small number of people feeling concerned or being aware of the problems is enough to prompt change.

What are the solutions?

We believe more than ever that a fix to those issues will not only come from management. Since the necessary transformations go against the economic interests and the domination structures companies are based on, they cannot be left to decide alone of the solutions.

External companies whose missions and goals are fixed by employers, and whose findings are not binding, cannot be a proper measure alone. Solutions must come from the workers themselves, and be overseen by independent structures. Unions, by nature, are properly equipped to allow marginalized people to organize and act while shielding them from management’s pressure.

The reports make one thing very clear: subordination within the company is a major obstacle to any honest and exhaustive evaluation of moral or physical harassment within studios. This reinforces our determination to keep creating strong union sections within companies, enabling them to counterbalance studios’ management and demand concrete action. These sections free the workers from the subordination they would otherwise encounter in the company, and make it easier to report the problems they encounter. They can then coordinate with other structures like CSEs (social & economic committees, elected workers representatives within companies) to find suitable solutions.

We call on studio executives to face the truth: up until now, what little they did was not efficient. If they really wish to change things, they should first stop treating call-outs or reports of discriminations as crisis management opportunities, but instead engage in true reflection, that includes workers, about the way discrimination accounts are handled, as well as the means to prevent further wrongdoings. If studio executives do not reconsider how subordination affects the freedom for workers to talk and denounce those problems, or if they do not include workers in the discussions, management will remain untrusted.

If we want to find a solution to those problems, all workers of the industry need to unite. The control mechanisms in place in game companies are very tightly linked to the general organization of work. We need to gather and rally to demand the proper means to protect ourselves from the toxic structural effects.

The STJV stands at the ready to help out workers who need it, whether they’re unionised or not, through listening to people’s stories or by providing advice. If the situation requires it, we are also ready to support legal actions.

Naughty Dog, content leaks, and what they tell us about our industry

As everyone is now aware, someone recently leaked the cutscenes from the highly anticipated game The Last of Us part II. While we do not feel like adding to the pile of reactions on the topic, this is a good time to take a step back and talk about what is really at stake: the video games industry’s obsession with secrecy and the developers’ emotional involvement in their work.

But first things first, let’s be clear: this article is not meant to clear the leaker of any responsibility. Much of the online discourse surrounding this event has been about finding out whether this was done as revenge against Naughty Dog (which, as you may know, is known for its practice of crunch), and this in turn has led to many mild reactions such as this one: https://twitter.com/jasonschreier/status/1254832952057434113

Again, our goal is not to find excuses for this action when we have no knowledge of the ins and outs of the leaks, but to remember that workers can – and will – break down under pressure, and that policing manners in such a way doesn’t help anyone.

But we must ask ourselves, why so much noise and heated debate around these leaks? Sure enough, spoilers are annoying, but the spoilers culture is first and foremost a marketing tool that has been (over)used very extensively by various entertainment industries. A blatant example can be found in this trailer (where it’s the only thing being discussed!), but one could also think of the huge wave of spoilers when Star Wars 7 released.

Let’s be realistic: spoilers have always been here, and there’s good reason to believe they’re here to stay. « Cutscene movies » of most games are up on YouTube on release day, or even earlier (when games are sold before street date for example). And this is without even touching on the topic of planned leaks.

So, why do spoilers matter so much? And why, in general, does the industry put so much stock in secrecy? One could think of it as a way to avoid negative reactions before release when most full-price sales happen. There is certainly a noticeable trend where big publishers and studios shun journalists by not holding preview events, or by putting embargo dates on reviews on the game’s release date. But since nowadays games have revenues smoothed over their lifetime (with the emergence of games as a service, patches, etc), does this argument really make sense on its own?

Clearly, the perception of a game is influenced by what relevant information is made available, and that can lead to missing the creators’ intended effect on the players. This is something you hear a lot from video game workers who want to see those leaks kept under wraps. But information filtering is also a technique companies use to assert their control over their workers!

Many of us have heard a variation of “think of your colleagues” when the topic of leaks comes up. By ordering us to stay silent, we are made to depend on the goodwill of our employers, our managers, our publishers and their marketing teams, to speak in our place, about the games WE make, under threat of punishment, firing or other legal consequences. This is a very strong form of control over all game workers, who end up being deprived of any power over how their work is displayed and perceived, or otherwise made to face unwarranted risks. The issue isn’t so much about forbidding any control over games information, but to know WHO is in control, and to wonder why such control is so omnipresent and widespread. Forbidding us to talk about our work to colleagues or friends is absurd and shameful for us. We are not secret agents!

Likewise, while calls to respect “the developers’ passion” are for the most part well-meaning, these miss the fact that said (undeniable) passion very often ends up breeding alienation in the same workers, in that it gets used to justify bad work conditions and low salaries. No one wishes to do away with passion, but we have to face the fact that our passion is used as a tool by company owners. As such, as workers, we need to distance ourselves from it in order to care for our own well-being and get back to the idea that a spoiler, as annoying as it may be, is only a minor bump on the road when compared to the product’s actual quality or the meaning it can convey to the audience.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that workers will feel affected by leaks. What else do we get from the games we make, since fame is reserved to “authors”, company owners and creative directors, and wealth to investors and shareholders?

We understand the pain one feels from such a loss of control over the one thing we’re left with: the pride of making a product people will enjoy. But this goes to show that our passion is exploited by employers. It allows them to obfuscate the hierarchical differences that exist within capitalist organizations, and to keep pushing the myth that games can be collective works made by & benefited from by equals even in such contexts.

Passion helps us cope with alienating work conditions, but if people are emotionally involved in a production, they should also be democratically involved in the decision making surrounding it, and also in sharing the profits. We cannot accept the status quo which dictates that because of the passion we hold dear, we should be made to suffer in silence.

About the Naughty Dog leaks: one person spoiling the whole game will have a relatively small impact on the studio as a whole, or on its owners, and the benefit of the action is dubious at best. But if the culture and myths surrounding secrecy didn’t exist, the same leaks would have sounded a lot less meaningful to the leaker. This seems like yet another instance of the Streisand Effect in action!

In conclusion, before we set out to condemn something that is, all things considered, quite benign, and someone who it seems wasn’t working at the studio anyway, let’s take the time to wonder why leaking the game may have looked to them like it could “hurt” the company.

To those who feel like they have their backs against the wall: unions exist for such a purpose. Contact us or other unions, depending on where you work, in France or abroad. Let’s organize together to defend ourselves, fend off loneliness and despair, and change the industry!

DONTNOD Entertainment workers’ answer to the studio’s communique about the COVID-19 pandemic

On March 19th 2020, Dontnod Entertainment issued a communique in which the studio congratulates itself for its management of the COVID-19 crisis. Many employees have expressed discomfort after reading this communique, as it does not reflect the events they experienced.

The workers would like to present some clarifications :

  • The elected staff representatives (the CSE) had contacted the company’s management on March 3rd, requesting the deployment of solutions to allow remote work, in reaction to the rapid growth of the pandemic.
  • At the CSE’s initiative two successive meetings were held with the management on March 6th and 9th, during which this request was declined both times.
    • When the CSE requested remote work to be opened to everyone at the company, the management answered it was « impossible for some employees » (the QA and IT teams in particular).
    • When the CSE then requested remote work to be opened at least to those who could do it, the management answered it would be « unfair » towards the teams unable to work remotely. The CSE tried to explain that, in the context of a pandemic, this would reduce physical contact between employees and would benefit everyone, but the studio’s management refused to see it that way.
    • The management also alluded to a decrease in productivity the studio was not able to bear, however without providing any document to back up this claim. It is important to note that most team leads, upon being asked the question, also expressed doubts about the ability for their teams to stay productive while working remotely.
    • Management also claimed that they did not have any legal obligation to accept remote work because there was no legal dispositions to force it yet.
  • On March 13th, following Emmanuel Macron’s first TV allocution, Dontnod’s management finally encouraged employees to work remotely in an email addressed to all the staff.
  • On March 16th, following Emmanuel Macron’s second TV allocution, Dontnod made remote work mandatory for all workers except for the QA and IT teams, in charge of the transition from in-office work.
    • These are the same teams the management claimed they were defending by forbidding large-scale remote work, who saw themselves compelled, by their work ethics, to keep going to their workplace for several more days in order to ensure the continuity of the services and implement everything needed for other employees to work remotely.
    • We think it is important to highlight that these teams are generally at the very bottom of the pay scale for video games professions, and are also the less recognized in video games production lines. Yet it was those teams who were, in fine, the most exposed, and who made possible the transition to remote work for all other employees.
  • Before March 13th, the measures taken by the studio’s management came down to those made mandatory by the government (hand sanitizer made available on each floor, email with instructions on how to protect oneself and other, quarantine for employees coming back from infected areas), and the cancellation or postponing of motion-capture shootings abroad.

All of this information comes in contradiction with the communique stating the protection of workers has been organised as soon as January.

Moreover, it appears today that remote work was not « impossible for some employees » but rather that the management didn’t want to spend the resources necessary to such adjusments, though they were essential to the workers’ protection.

Several of our colleagues are showing signs of COVID-19 symptoms. Taking into account the virus’ incubation time, it is likely that those actually infected have been so before social distancing measures and remote work came into effect.

Dontnod’s management first reacted by warning only the people working in the same open-space as those potentially contaminated, although we have a common cafeteria, common elevators and our work meetings gather employees from different floors. Eventually, the management sent an email on March 24th informing employees that « some persons are showing signs of COVID-19 symptoms » and that they might have been infected « at work or elsewhere ».

For all these reasons, we are meeting with great skepticism Dontnod’s communique declaring the health of its employees is the company’s top priority. We perfectly understand the difficulties presented by a crisis of such importance, however it does not mean we will accept such distortions of reality.

While our workers’ representatives were concerned with our health, Dontnod’s management refused on several occasions to establish safety measures, particularly in the name of productivity.

In addition, we wish to express our support and solidarity with all the workers forced to go to work or put at risk by bosses considering profits more important than their, and their relavites’, health. We will mobilise in person as soon as the crisis is over to defend our rights, the provisions of our Code du Travail (labour laws) and our public services.

Addendum :

After the publication of our statement, some colleagues have expressed doubt on a few of our points, to which we want to add a some precisions:

  • It has been omitted in the initial statement that QA team leads insisted on the optional side of their team being physically present at work, and on their right to stay at home ; in effect, no QA worker went to their office since the beginning of the lockdown.
  • We also want to remind everyone that this statement was published quite late: two weeks after the Dontnod’s PR team statement to which it replies. Between the publication of Dontnod’s statement and that of the workers we have noticed, with relief, that management has respected its obligation of protection of their workers and put into place all the means necessary so that the teams can telework properly, in the right conditions.

We remain united with and available to all our colleagues – unionized or not – if they have any comments, questions or problems: you can contact us at stjv-dontnod@framalistes.org.

Fight against the pensions system reform : a (provisional) report

On the 5th of December of last year, the Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo (french Video Game Workers Union) published, as part of a national fight against a planned overhaul of the french pension system, the very first nation-wide call to strike of its history. On the 1st of January, we published a second call to strike, which we extended several times until February 23rd, for a total of 54 days.

It is, as far as we know, the first time the video game industry mobilised this way for a national political struggle. And this mobilisation is much greater than what we expected. We were able to register several hundreds days of strike among the workers we’re in contact with; days which allowed the industry’s workers to organize, to learn, to rest, to meet each other and build new relationship; days taken back from the companies exploiting us and profiting from our passions.

The STJV was also present during protests with official groups at every big demonstration since the beginning of the movement, in 6 cities across France, gathering more than a hundred people on several occasions. These demonstrations gave us the opportunity to meet and chat with unions from other industries, feminist collectives, organisations defending unemployed people, students unions, etc. and to make new allies.

The rallying of (almost) all the unions and leftist organisations allowed us, all together, to win the public opinion battle. Indeed the majority of french people are asking for the complete withdrawal of the planned reform, while an even bigger majority wants the government to hold a referendum to decide whether to cancel it or not. In the meantime the government remains adamant, refuses to listen to the people and would rather get bogged down in a parliamentary process in which even the ruling party’s absolute majority cannot help. We’re even hearing rumors about the use of the 49.3 article of the constitution, which allows a government to pass a law without the approval of the parliamentary institutions, as if the insult to democracy was not already bad enough.

It is the time we choose, following other unions, to take a break. After more than 2 months of mass movement we are exhausted, our members need to rest, to save back money after all the unpaid striking days. This break will not only give us time to better prepare the future of the movements, but also to make progress on other important subjects. In particular, the STJV will be present for the March 8th actions for the international day of struggle for women’s rights. Do not hesitate to join the union to help us, we are always in need of more people !

However, and as long as the planned reform hasn’t been withdrawn, we need to stay alert and ready. We are already calling for a massive mobilisation on the 31st of March, and to form corteges all around France under the banner of the STJV. We will later publish an official call to strike for the occasion.

Call to strike in the video game industry 1st to 10th of January 2020

For the 5th of December, the first day of the social movement against a planned overhaul of the French pension system, the STJV (Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo, or Video Game Workers Union) issued a call to strike. The movement has been largely followed in the video game industry : more workers than we expected went on strike and the STJV, present at every protest since the beginning of the strike, has been able to gather around 100 people in 4 cities in France on the biggest days of action. We have also been able to exchange ideas and info with other unions, and meet workers and inform them about our activities, their rights and how they can defend them. This strike movement is creating favorable conditions to build workers unity and a collective base to fight for a better future for everyone.

The revelations concerning Jean-Paul Delevoye, who was in charge of the planned pensions overhaul until his recent resignation, and his numerous conflicts of interest, showed clearly that the goal of this attempt at reforming the pension system is to favor private interests, in particular pension funds, and eventually wealthy people. Delevoye is gone but his reform stands. The new state secretary appointed to lead the reform, Laurent Pietraszewski, is not known for his love of workers and unions: we are not expecting anything from him. We do not wish to reach any compromise, and need to keep rallying until the complete withdrawal of the pensions overhaul project.

Every step back on a social benefit threatens all social rights, painfully gained through social struggle, by creating a window of opportunity to lower them. After the labor laws and unemployment benefits reforms, both already having the effect of impoverishing the population and making people’s lives precarious, the government will keep on its destructive endeavor as long as we do not put a stop to it.

Our demands did not change: complete and non-negotiable withdrawal of the planned pension system overhaul, improvements to the current pension system, better working conditions, less job insecurity, and overall more equality. More precisely, in the video game industry: end of the crunch culture, higher salaries, equality between genders, fight against harassment and every form of discrimination, end of the generalization of precarious contracts, end of the exploitation of interns!

Since the 5th of December we have been following the calls to strike issued by the large trade unions confederations, which we passed along to our members and on Twitter. We are now issuing our own renewable call to strike, which covers the STJV’s field of action in the private sector, from the 1st to the 10th of January 2020 included. The union will then assemble to discuss the future of the strike and the possible renewal of this call to strike. We are inviting everyone to organize or take part in general assemblies everywhere in France.

This call concerns: every person employed by a company editing, distributing, providing services for and/or creating video games whichever position or status they have in the company and whatever type of games or services produced by the company (console/PC games, mobile games, serious games, VR/AR experiences, game engines, marketing services, etc.), as well as all teachers working in private schools on video game related curriculum. For all these people, and since it is a nationwide call to strike, there is no procedure needed to go on strike legally: you simply need to not show up to work on the days you wish to strike.

We are also inviting freelancers, content creators, students, researchers, members of workers co-ops and unemployed people to take part in the strike effort and to join us in future protests and gatherings.

December 5th : the STJV’s call to strike

The STJV is issuing a call for every worker in the video game industry, every student in video game related studies, and everyone able to do so, to go on strike on Thursday, December 5th, to protest against the pensions overhaul project and, on the contrary, to ask for improvements to the current pension system, better working conditions, less job insecurity, and overall more equality.

This overhaul project’s goal is to make us retire later in life and to reduce pensions. We cannot accept more precariousness regarding pensions, especially after health-destructing and underpaid careers in video games. We do not want to lose our lives making a living! By attacking the “special” pension schemes, which have been won through social struggles, the government is trying to divide us. Every industry, every craft that loses benefits is one more excuse to justify lowering the standards for everyone. We must unite and defend, together, our desire for a better life.

When it comes to workers’ rights the current government, just as its predecessors, is on its way to dismantle everything that’s been gained in the past. Video game workers, already threatened by the neoliberal practices rampant in our industry, cannot accept more cuts to their rights. Between the unemployment benefits reform, which is already reducing the standard of living for many of us stuck between contracts in a slow-recruiting industry, and the incoming Project Contract, the future of our industry cannot be conceived without social struggle.

We demand better working conditions and the respect of our rights: end of the crunch culture, higher salaries, equality between genders, fight against harassment and every form of discrimination, end of the generalization of precarious contracts, end of the exploitation of interns!

We believe the unity of workers, across different industries and demands, will allow us to build a collective base able to create, with everyone carrying this hope, a better future not only for our jobs but also for the whole population and for the planet. This strike will be an occasion to come together and unite everyone’s struggle.

For all these reasons, the STJV is issuing this call to strike and will march along other unions in several cities. We encourage everyone who is working, has worked in the past, or is looking to work in the future in the video game industry, whatever their status, to gather at the meeting points which we will organize. We would like to remind workers in the private sector that, since it is a nationwide call to strike, they don’t need to do anything in particular to participate in the strike: you only need to not show up to work on the 5th of December.