BioWare Edmonton contract employees file to unionize

Employees at Keywords Studios that are supporting development at BioWare Edmonton have reportedly filed to unionize.

Word is spreading that British Columbia-based employees of Keywords Studios (a Dublin-headquartered prolific game industry contract and outsourcing service used by many studios to support development) have formally filed to unionize. 

Notably, the unionizing employees forming a unit are apparently contract workers supporting development at BioWare Edmonton. 

The news comes from a notice from Canada's Alberta Labour Relations Board, which was posted on Reddit earlier today by user "KeywordsUnitedYEG." According to the notice, United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union formally filed to become the certified bargaining agent for local Keywords Studios employees on April 20, 2022. 

"If the Board finds the application meets the Code's requirements, including the union has at least 40 [percent] support from employees in the proposed bargaining unit, it may conduct a secret ballot representation vote," the notice states. "The ballot will ask employees if they want the trade union to represent them in collective bargaining with the employer."

A representative for the Alberta Labour Relations Board confirmed the filing in an e-mail to Game Developer, stating that "The certification application has been assigned to a Board Officer for investigation." They also referred us to a breakdown of the Board's process for certification

It goes on to note that employees who object to the application can file an objection with the Labour Board in writing, with full details to support their position--though these are meant to be legal objections, it appears that it will be the the election that decides the union's fate.

Keywords has spent the last few years on a massive spending spree, opening and acquiring game development studios left and right. Its global operations are massive, supporting developers across multiple hemispheres. 

At this time it's unclear what is motivating this unionization push. It might be that this bargaining unit is facing tough conditions at work, or it could be inspired by the success of Raven Software QA employees who are on their own path to a labor vote after the American National Labor Relations Board ruled in their favor last week

User "KeywordsUnitedYEG" stated on Reddit that its account owner would only be able to take questions after normal business hours. We've reached out to them, Keywords Studios, and BioWare parent company Electronic Arts for comment, and will update this story when they respond. 

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