As reported by Polygon, former Keywords Studios quality assurance testers — who were formerly working on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf — plan to picket outside of the Bioware Edmonton office today (November 7, 2023) at 2 p.m. ET. According to the former workers, their goal with the picket is to “convince Keywords to reinstate those they terminated with new work.”
These workers are protesting after they were laid off by Keywords Studios back in September. Keywords was working on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf as a contractor, so when EA/Bioware didn’t renew the contract, Keywords said it didn’t have any other projects to assign these workers to, and laid them off. These workers were unionized and were in negotiations with Keywords when they were laid off.
According to reporting from Game Developer, Bioware and EA tried to stop the picket from happening. Labor unions in Canada are required to file notices of strike decisions with their local labor boards. When the members of Keyworks Edmonton United voted to strike, they submitted their notice to the Alberta Labor Relations Board. After they did, lawyers from EA and Bioware filed an objection to the picket that led to a hearing on November 2.
The companies apparently argued that the employees should not be allowed to picket outside of the Bioware Edmonton office, and should instead have to protest in front of their own homes. Their logic was that the Keywords employees were all remote workers, and therefore didn’t actually work at the office they were planning to picket. But that argument did not stand up to Canada’s “secondary picketing” oversight, which provides for workers to protest at certain locations that aren’t their primary place of work, alongside the fact that Keywords originally started working with Bioware and EA at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to be remote, including using remote software to access Bioware equipment.
There are other former Bioware employees who were laid off in August that are suing the company over low severance after their release.
The ruling went in favor of the workers and they are allowed to proceed with the picket, provided they don’t block access to the building for the other employees of companies housed within that building. The demonstration is set to begin at 2 p.m. ET.