GWU Newsletter #1

Dear Game Workers,

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be regular newsletters about organising in game work, and events and information you need to be aware of.

Australia’s minimum wage has increased

Some of you may have seen the news this week that Australia’s minimum wage was lifted by 3.5%. The new wages will take effect on July 1 2018.

What are you talking about?

Australia’s minimum wages are set by the Fair Work Commission.

Each year, as the cost of living changes (it went up 2.1% this year), the Fair Work Commission meets to review the minimum wages. At that time, various different groups make formal submissions to lobby the Fair Work Commission for the wages to be changed.

Australia’s union groups lobby for the wages to increase, while industry groups lobby for the wages to stay unchanged, or even to go down.

This year, exactly that happened – retail and industry groups representing Australia’s businesses requested that the Fair Work Commission leave the minimum wages unchanged.

Even though the cost of living rose this year, these retail and industry groups argued that it would hurt businesses (read: profits) too much if they had to lift their wages to keep pace.

Every year, industry groups like this quite politely request, as if it was the most normal thing in the world, that the lives of Australian workers should get worse, so that the businesses these groups represent can enjoy higher profits.

If it sounds counter-productive or outright greedy, you’re right! It is. That is exactly what it is. But that is what these industry groups are formed to do, and they are very good at it because they have a lot of money and no laws restricting them.

Fortunately this year, the Fair Work Commission saw fit to agree with union movement, and raise the minimum wage – not by as much as was requested, but still an increase.

Great! What does it mean for game workers?

Unfortunately, the answer is basically nothing.

The increases to the minimum wage take the form of increases to the wages outlined in our Awards. The Awards cover different industries, such as Banking, Finance and Insurance, or Gardening and Landscaping, and so on.

One of the biggest problems we face as game workers in Australia is that our industry is largely not covered by an Award.

Not only does this mean that we have no standardised wages and conditions for our work, but it also means that when the time comes for Australia’s minimum wages to be reviewed, game workers miss out on any increases.

While bits and pieces of our industry could theoretically be covered by existing Awards (for example, a game programmer could make a reasonable case that they should be treated as a Software Engineer for the purposes of the Professional Employees Award) the vast majority of game work is negotiated on a personal or ad hoc basis.

This approach simply isn’t good enough – a fact which is reflected in the miserable retention rates of our industry, and the poor rates of pay that fail to increase as the cost of living rises.

But we can fix this!

One of the major areas that we as a game workers union will be in a position to address will be standardising these rates and conditions across the industry, so that the law is clear on what pay rates we can expect.

By coming together as a massive collective, we can apply pressure to either have an entirely new Award created, or to amend an existing Award so that we as game workers are included for our various disciplines.

This will provide safety and security to us as workers, and provide employers with certainty about what kind of budgets they should be allocating and wages they should be preparing to pay.

Importantly, having this information enshrined in law gives us the power to take action if our rights are being breached.

In the coming weeks, we hope to release a resource that will provide clarity on what minimum wages do exist for game workers, and where to find them.

The Industry Survey - We need your help!

So far, our survey completion rates are:
  • Game Developer: 93 responses
  • Game Journalist: 7 responses
  • Game PR/Marketing: 8 responses
  • Game Streamer/Video Creator: 2 responses
  • Professional Player: 1 response
  • Other Game Worker: 5 responses
Clearly, game developers are leading the pack when it comes to responses. Thanks, game developers!

However, we really need to branch out and break into the hard to reach areas of places like streaming and professional play. We all need to work together as an industry and not be divided by discipline.

If you know anyone who is doing streaming or pro play on a regular basis, please encourage them to take the survey!

Join the Discord!

We are beginning to congregate and organise together on a secure Discord channel where we can talk about our issues.

If you’re a game worker in Australia and unionising is on your mind, join us! Fill out the application form here and you will be emailed an invitation link once it’s been reviewed.

Applications are manually approved by our team to ensure security and prevent harassment.

E3 2018

E3 2018 is coming up. Game Workers Unite’s LA chapter will be on the ground to spread material about the need to protect game workers and end exploitation.

You can do your part by following along on social media and spreading the word here in Australia to show solidarity. Hit them up on Twitter here (main international chapter) and here (LA).

Bits and Pieces

  • Buzzfeed is running a story on how animators used the power of their union to take disciplinary action and prosecute a man who had sexually harassed a great number women in their industry for nearly 14 years.
  • Here in Australia, a groundbreaking new report shows that less than half of all Australians are enjoying a secure, stable job. More than half of our national workforce are part-timers, contractors, casuals, or otherwise unable to rely on income.
  • The Bureau of Meteorology is on strike this week after going five years without a pay increase! Support your local BOM workers.
That’s all for now! Stay tuned for more. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to any other game workers in Australia who may be keen!

We need everybody’s help to make a difference.

About GWU Australia
Game Workers Unite Australia is looking to build a union for game developers in Australia and work in tandem with all branches of Game Workers Unite to bring about effective change in the industry.

We seek reform in wages, diminishing crunch, creating transparency in contracts, workplace safety, and bringing about laws to ensure game workers of all kinds recieve their legal workplace benefits.

We are run exclusively by workers (non-employers), but we actively encourage employers, academics, and others to engage in the community and help support the organization's direct action efforts both materially and through their visibility.

We support students, streamers, pro players, public relations, marketing, ads, sales, designers, writers, programmers, artists, producers, QA, localisers, audio, community management, office support, journalists, and more. If you work in games, you are one of us.