The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has accused Monument Valley and Assemble With Care developer Ustwo Games of union busting, and is threatening the studio with legal action.
The IWGB alleges the award-winning developer sacked Assemble with Care senior programmer Austin Kelmore after he was questioned by management about his union activities, and then breached UK law by denying him union representation at his disciplinary and dismissal meetings.
"The management of Ustwo [...] informed Austin Kelmore, the branch chair and founding member of the Game Workers Unite UK branch of the IWGB, in late September that he would be put on gardening leave and then dismissed," reads an statement from Game Workers Unite, which is the UK branch of the IWGB.
"This happened a few weeks after he was questioned by a senior manager regarding his trade union activity and just after he invited a group of Ustwo employees to a meeting to discuss rights at work."
Ustwo has also been accused of attacking Kelmore for attempting to hold management to account and "generate positive change" at the company. Emails obtained by the IWGB apparently show bosses complaining about his decision to spend time on "company feedback, diversity schemes and working practices," and for putting management "on the spot."
"It feels that Austin is a self-appointed bastion of change and sometimes speaks on behalf of others," reads the email. "The studio runs as a collective ‘we’ rather than leadership v employees, which may have been Austin’s experience in the past, but it’s not how things are here."
The IWGB claims the "unfair dismissal and victimization" experienced by Kelmore will cause both emotional and financial harm while putting his immigration status at risk, and has given Ustwo until October 4 to reverse its decision to fire Kelmore before it files legal action.
Ustwo, however, claims Kelmore will be departing in the near future for "reasons unconnected to his membership of a trade union," and suggested it doesn't have an issue with staff who take part in union activities.
"Austin Kelmore is currently an employee of Ustwo Games and will be leaving in the near future for reasons unconnected to his membership of a trade union or his undertaking trade union activities," said the studio in a statement sent to Gamasutra.
"We have other employees who are members of trade unions. To respect Austin’s privacy, it is not appropriate for us to comment further on this matter. Ustwo Games has been and will continue to be committed to diversity and inclusivity. We work hard to build a supportive work environment for all our employees."