On April 25, QA contract workers at Keywords Studios, a video game testing company that frequently collaborates with BioWare, began a Canadian unionization effort for the Keywords Studios office in Vancouver, British Columbia. Within the QA worker’s union filing, the group sought to become a bargaining power for all Keywords Studio employees currently in development at BioWare’s Edmonton, Alberta offices. Today, this group of QA workers were able reverse Keywords Studio’s policy of a mandatory return to the office. Now, Keywords Studios’ QA contractors are able to work remotely, which was one of the union’s key demands when filing for unionization.
Last Friday, in an email sent to staff, Keywords Studios QA workers were informed that working from home will be maintained “until further notice.” Before this win for the fledgling QA contractor union, Keywords Studios was demanding remote and hybrid workers to completely return to the office by May 9. This proposed policy by Keywords Studios is unsurprising given that the company was heavily criticized for reportedly forcing employees to work at the office in March 2020, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, BioWare is following a hybrid work schedule for its employees; however, now the Keywords Studios contractors currently working at BioWare’s offices will be able to fully work from home.
The ballot to determine if the QA workers can become a union or not is predicted to occur soon, with the Alberta Labour Relations Board stating that the agency has “officially ordered a unionization vote by mail-in ballot.” Furthermore, the Board also recommends that the union vote should be expanded to all Keywords Studio QA employees, not just the contractors in BioWare’s Edmonton office. In order for the Keywords Studios union to become ratified, a majority of the QA employees who receive a ballot, meaning they are card-carrying members, have to vote in support of unionization.