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CD Projekt Red workers form union after layoffs

Founders cite worry over job stability, but say crunch has improved

A screenshot of protagonist V firing a weapon at a Barghest armored trooper in Cyberpunk 2077’s Phantom Liberty expansion. Image: CD Projekt Red
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Some staff at CD Projekt Red, the Polish developer of Cyberpunk 2077 and the Witcher games, have formed the Polish Gamedev Workers Union in response to recent layoffs at the studio.

The union is open to anyone working anywhere in the game industry under a Polish contract, although at present it only has a company commission at CD Projekt Red (with an unknown number of members), and will initially be focused on improving the lives of employees there. It’s part of a much larger Polish union, OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza.

The union said it was CD Projekt Red’s decision to lay off around 100 workers — 9% of its workforce — in 2023 that prompted its formation. The company has just released Phantom Liberty, the first and only expansion for Cyberpunk 2077, and is now winding down work on that game as it builds towards a new Witcher title and a Cyberpunk sequel, as well as several other projects.

“We started talking about unionizing after the 2023 wave of layoffs,” The Polish Gamedev Workers Union said in a FAQ on its site. “This event created a tremendous amount of stress and insecurity, affecting our mental health and leading to the creation of this union in response. Having a union means having more security, transparency, better protection, and a stronger voice in times of crisis. [...] We believe that the mass layoffs are a danger to the gamedev industry and we believe that unionizing is a way for us to preserve the industry’s potential.”

The union said its priority was to give CD Projekt Red staff a voice in company decision-making, with a view to increasing employment stability. It also wants to help workers’ voices be heard on working conditions “in the long run.”

In an interview with Polish site CD Action, union founders Lev Ki and Paweł Myszka — both CD Projekt Red employees, working in programming and QA respectively — said that the studio had actually made great strides in improving working conditions, especially in eliminating crunch. CD Projekt Red had sworn it would try to deliver Cyberpunk 2077 without crunch, but reportedly failed in this aim. It seems that, with Phantom Liberty, it has finally made good on its promise.

“While working on Phantom Liberty there was no crunch, certainly not to the same extent as with the [base game],” Myszka told CD Action (via Google Translate). “There were overtime hours only for those willing, paid or taken as vacation days. The company introduced an anti-crunch policy, which was consistently implemented and enforced. Agile [development] has indeed also been introduced, but remember that the agile methodology is a process, you cannot simply switch to Agile, you are constantly implementing it. This has actually been achieved and the atmosphere in the company is good.”

Myszka also pointed to the warm reception to Phantom Liberty from critics and fans, versus the buggy and unfinished release of Cyberpunk 2077. “The entire development of Phantom Liberty has proven that when you treat an employee well, he gives more of himself and the end result of his work is better. This translates into higher product quality. The trade union exists to maintain this high standard of working conditions and improve those elements that could be better.”

Ki declined to give the number of CD Projekt Red employees who had signed up to the union for legal reasons, but noted that a minimum of 10 were needed for the union to be formed. The two founders said that they had yet to receive any response to the formation of the union from CD Projekt Red’s management, but that they had met with no resistance or interference yet. Their hope is to improve the lot of workers across the Polish game industry, and to educate more workers on the benefits of full employment contracts, as opposed to freelance contracting which is apparently widespread in the country.

Update (Oct. 10): CD Projekt Red has responded to the formation of the Polish Gamedev Workers Union in a comment supplied to Polygon. The company said:

“We have been informed about the intention to form a trade union covering gamedev companies, including our company. We will act in accordance with law and comply with legal obligations that might arise from that situation.

“At the same [time] it’s worth mentioning that the voice of RED’s team is already represented by the RED Team Representatives (RTR), which is a democratically elected body representing all employees and independent of the management board. We have been working with them for over two years now and we will continue to do so to keep our work environment transparent, safe and healthy.”

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