Video game. At Ubisoft, employees go on strike for the first time

The magic no longer operates at Ubisoft. The patriarch boss, Yves Guillemot, wrote to his employees in early January, explaining why he had to revise his financial objectives downwards. “Today, more than ever, I need you to mobilize even more so that we can return to success”he enjoined them, insisting: ” The ball is in your camp. » Rather than uniting the troops, this employer request pushed the employees to strike, at the call of the two unions present in the company, Solidaires Informatique and the STJV (Union of video game workers).

“This Friday is actually the first strike at Ubisoft. We are calling for a rally, our primary goal is to create a collective,” explains Marc Rutschlé, from Solidaires Informatique. His colleague from the Parisian studio, representing the STJV, Pierre-Étienne Marx, adds: “During the distribution of leaflets, the feedback is really good, the discussions are more open, the unions are no longer frightening and the strike is no longer taboo. Especially since, with the pension reform, video game workers also feel caught up in social news. » More than 200 workers in the sector marched in the colors of the young union, during the first national day of mobilizations, January 19.

Faced with the sling, the CEO of Ubisoft tried the card of “you misunderstood me”, before bringing out his economic argument. The management had indeed projected better sales for the latest opuses of Mario + Rabbids and of just dance. “We are making the difficult decision to halt development on three as yet unannounced projects, in addition to the four already canceled in July”explained to the employees Yves Guillemot, announcing a “cost reduction of more than 200 million euros over the next two years, mainly relying on targeted organizational adjustments, as well as natural attrition”.

Developers reached 400 overtime hours in one year

The term, synonymous with wear, did not please the exhausted employees. “In the mind of the management, it is positive, she is saying that she does not foresee mass layoffs, whereas almost every day, in tech, a social plan is announced, translated Pierre-Étienne Marx. In a way, she’s telling us: rejoice, we’re just going to push people out. » The unions will in any case be careful that teams are not, in one way or another, forced to resign. Because, given the average age in video game studios, the promised reduction in the workforce will not happen with non-replaced retirements… Staff representatives are also worried about this additional effort required of employees, because the burnout lurks and many suffer from acute wrist tendonitis. At Ubisoft Paris, some developers have reached 400 overtime hours in one year, the equivalent of two and a half months of work! “The management does not force, but insists a lot and when there is a third of the employees in precarious contracts, it often works”points out Marc Rutschlé.

The last time Yves Guillemot called on his employees to stand by his side was when Vincent Bolloré almost bought the group in 2017. was welcomed like a star in the studios, the employees took pictures with him… Today, this same call for union is leading them to strike. “We never recovered from the sexual harassment scandals in 2020, especially since the management never admitted the slightest part of responsibility, summarizes Marc Rutschlé. This has deeply damaged trust. » Then the management stubbornly wanted to sell NFTs (digital accessories that players can acquire) in its games, against the advice of the teams, before backtracking in the face of the bronca of its players. “What really does not pass is that we are told: the ball is in your court, while we are suffering from the bad choices of a management that does not consult us! » Pierre-Étienne Marx gets carried away.

To this already full cup, we must add the problem of wages. On a French scale, Ubisoft does not pay its employees badly, but the competition is very weak. Compared to other industry giants, the comparison hurts. “Nearly a third of developers who had some experience left Ubisoft Montreal studios and found better salaries and a healthier work environment with the competition, explains Marc Rutschlé. Some French colleagues also go to large European studios that accept full-time teleworking. » Make no effort on wages, this is perhaps the strategy of “attrition” of management.

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