Dragon Age QA workers are applying to unionize

Dragon Age Day

Employees of Keywords Studios are the latest group to push for unionization

Quality assurance testers working for BioWare under support company Keywords Studios are attempting to unionize. A notice, filed April 20, states that employees in development support at the BioWare Edmonton office have submitted a union application.

Under the application filed with the Alberta Labor Relations Board (confirmed by Kotaku), employees supporting the Edmonton BioWare office have applied under the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union. The application is under review and open to objections until May 3.

Keywords Studios is a contracting services company. The employees moving for unionization work directly with the production team at BioWare Edmonton, previously on Mass Effect: Legendary Edition and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and now on the next Dragon Age.

An industry-wide ripple

Speaking with Kotaku, a representative for the group says the catalyst for unionization was returning to the office. Keywords informed employees they would have to return to BioWare offices in-person, five days a week starting on May 9. The rep says Keywords staff don’t receive paid time off, while full-time BioWare staff still have work-from-home options available. In 2020, Keywords also faced criticism from staff over its response to the pandemic.

The group representative also says that a big issue is pay. Keywords QA workers are allegedly being paid less than BioWare staff, and the rep voiced concerns about gender-based pay discrimination, lack of consistent metrics in employee evaluation, and overall transparency issues regarding compensation.

This is one of several unionization efforts that has sprung up over the last year or so. Employees at Raven Software are working to unionize, and last December, Vodeo Games staff unionized.

As labor issues have become more widely publicized and discussed, efforts like these—especially among quality assurance workers—seem determined to propagate throughout the industry.

Eric Van Allen