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Avakin Life developer Lockwood Publishing accused of unlawful layoffs

Those affected have described the situation as "an unlawful massive redundancy."

Avakin Life developer Lockwood Publishing has been accused of laying off dozens of workers unlawfully.

A statement penned by some of those affected, published on the IWGB Game Workers Union website, describes the layoffs as "an unlawful massive redundancy."

Staff say the redundancies were announced in October and placed 33 employees at risk, pulling them into a "chaotic stop-start process." Employees then formed a workplace Lockwood Union as part of the IWGB Game Workers branch, delaying the process and successfully removing some staff members from the firing line.

The group, however, insists that Lockwood failed to abide by employment law by neglecting to conduct collective consultations and offering workers an explanation as to why their roles are at risk.

"Senior management continue to act unlawfully, dismiss calls for a fair process and railroad redundancies before Christmas while refusing to disclose how many workers now stand to lose their jobs," reads a statement.

That sentiment has been echoed by Labor MP Nadia Whittome, who has written to Lockwood CEO Halli Bjornsson to demand the redundancy process be halted immediately.

"I am informed that senior management at Lockwood Publishing have dismissed workers' calls for a fair process, instead seeking to make employees redundant before Christmas whilst refusing to disclose how many workers still stand to lose their job," reads the letter, shared on Twitter.

"As you are aware, when placing this number of employees at risk of redundancy, corporations are obligated by law to conduct collective consultations with employees. I am informed Lockwood Publishing has failed to do this, showing a shocking disregard for basic human rights."

As well as demanding the redundancy process be paused immediately, Whittome is asking Lockwood to investigate allegations of the victimization of union members, formally recognize the IWGB union, adhere to the correct redundancy processes as set out in employment law, and work with staff and the unions to save jobs wherever possible.

"As the allegations of victimization of union members are so serious, I seek your personal assurance that this will be dealt with swiftly, and that it will not be allowed to happen again in future," added Whittome.

Bjornsson, however, claims the layoffs are the result of the pandemic slowing the company's growth trajectory. Speaking to Gamesindustry.biz, the chief exec confirmed the studio would be making 20 employees redundant, but said the company "tried to safeguard the jobs of as many of our team as possible."

He also dismissed the idea that Lockwood could have used its investment to avoid redundancies. "We cannot do this. In order to thrive into the future, we have to build a sustainable, profitable and successful business, and sadly that means reducing our team," continued Bjornsson, who reiterated the studio is "talking to all our teams about this decision."

"I am really sorry to see team members leave Lockwood, and I know this period will be hard for those leaving, and unsettling for those staying. The tough decisions we take are to safeguard the future of our business, and to secure the roles of as many people at Lockwood as possible."

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