Embattled strategy studio Eugen Systems (Wargame, Steel Division) remains at war with itself. As reported by Gamasutra, the company fired six employees on December 19th – almost a quarter of its remaining staff – who were involved in a two-month strike last year over pay disputes. Eugen have now stated the reason for the six were fired was because they “used a professional tool for an inappropriate purpose”, denying that the layoffs were related to their involvement in the strike.
The workers have stated through French games union STJV that they were fired under the pretext of having “negatively affected the mood” of the studio, for their use of “insulting language in a… private chat channel.” Their full statement from December 21st (available in English here) says that they believed the firings to be “a preemptive move by management” ahead of a labour tribunal hearing scheduled for March 2019 – a case being brought against Eugen by 15 employees.
Given that the studio has shrunk drastically (from around fifty at the start of 2018), and many are working with STJV to file legal case, things aren’t sounding so great for Eugen. In the union’s statement, they claim that workers were being drastically underpaid (well under the legal minimum for their jobs) and were seeking back pay and salary adjustments to bring them at least up to the legal baseline. While I don’t want to speculate on whether Eugen’s stated reasons for the firing is truthful or not, axing such a large percentage of the team just days before Christmas isn’t a good look.
I’m happy there there’s an organised union backing the workers and their legal dispute here, at least to me. The UK is only just now catching up with France, with the recent founding of Games Workers Unite UK, the nation’s first industry workers union. Given the countless stories of overwork, underpay and abusive management we hear every year, it’s good to have an organised front. The Eugen strikes last year – the peak of a dispute beginning in 2016 – ended with the studio refusing to budge, but STJV is prepared to take it to court.
Eugen’s strategy sequel Steel Division 2 is due for release later this year, although given the apparent unease at the shrinking studio, I’d not be surprised if that changes.