Outsourcing and tech services provider Keywords Studios has laid off a group of Canadian testers working on BioWare games. These were the same employees who unionized last year.
UFCW, a Canadian union that supports retail and food workers, first reported the layoffs at Keywords Edmonton earlier this week. “We are obviously saddened by the turn of events but we stand committed to finishing our contract negotiations with Keywords Studios,” James Russwurm, a former worker and member of the negotiation committee.
Keywords Studios later told Polygon that 13 employees were laid off on September 27. The main reason is that BioWare declined to continue its contract in August.
According to Russwurm, the studio offered “minimal severance” to those affected by the job cuts. That’s why UFCW has filed an employment standards complaint against Keywords Studios.
In June 2022, 16 QA testers at Keywords Edmonton voted unanimously to form a union, becoming the first group of video game industry workers to unionize in Canada. “We will continue to have an ongoing dialogue with all individuals in the Edmonton team, as we move forward together, always learning and improving,” the company said at the time.
The Canadian team worked primarily on BioWare games, such as Mass Effet: Legendary Edition, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the upcoming Dragon Age: Dreadwolf.
Founded in 1998, Keywords Studios is a constantly expanding company that has over 20 offices across the globe and provides other developers and publishers with various outsourcing services. Earlier this year, it snapped up Hardsuit Labs, a US studio known as the former developer of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2.
In August 2022, BioWare laid off about 50 employees, including several veterans and high-profile developers like Dragon Age writer Mary Kirby and technical director Jon Renish. Right now, seven former workers are suing the studio to get “adequate severance.”