Statement on Layoffs and Works Council
Goodgame Studios is well and truly a Hamburg company, which is why we are weather-proof, even when a particularly heavy wind is blowing. We currently find ourselves in the midst of a media storm. Goodgame Studios is accused of laying off staff because those employees were planning to found a workers’ council.
We would like to take the opportunity here to comment on and respond to some of the speculations and accusations in the press from our point of view.
UPDATE, 29 January 2016:
Allegation: A severely disabled employee was also dismissed without observing the required procedures.
Reality: Correct. We made a truly regrettable mistake.
When the notice was given to this employee his status as a severely disabled person was overlooked. We are very sorry about this. During the procedure that was subsequently initiated the integration office in Hamburg agreed to the termination of the contract by 29 February 2016.
UPDATE, 22 January 2016:
Allegation: Goodgame Studios uses Feelgood Management as a replacement for a works council
Reality: Wrong. The Feelgood Team is only a service to offer employees the best possible work experience.
At Goodgame Studios we are aware that we can only be successful in the long term if our employees can develop their full potential. For this reason we offer a variety of measures for employees to take an active part in their own and the company’s development.
The various services provided by our four-person Feelgood Team represent only one part in our overall strategy to offer employees the best possible work experience. Over and above that, management presents itself to the whole company once a month in order to discuss current topics. The problems that are identified in this context are tackled by an interdisciplinary work group that was called into life specifically for this purpose. Anonymous feedback can also be given through other channels. We have worked to continuously improve this package of services and we will keep on doing that.
Allegation: Goodgame Studios has put its employees under extreme pressure at the works meeting in order to prevent a works council
Reality: Wrong. Under their own free will and in a carefully and impartially adjudicated environment the majority of employees voted for an alternative employee representation in both a direct and a secret ballot.
At no time has the company put its employees under pressure of any kind, or ever threatened them with consequences. We have emphasized repeatedly that we respect any form of employee representation in the company and want to foster a constructive and trusting dialogue. Besides this, all employees were asked to take part at the works meeting and to vote according to their preference and judgement. The following infographic was also distributed in this context:
After an open and balanced discussion at this event, despite massive promotion of the works council by ver.di nearly two thirds (62.8 per cent) of the staff voted for an alternative employee representation.
The often quoted flyer and presentation charts, which promoted the alternative employee representation, were without exception authored by the work group that has developed this model of their own accord and without order or help from the management. Every employee was free to stand up for a works council in the same way and promote it.
Allegation: Goodgame Studios tried to establish a weak alternative employee body in order to prevent effective participation and a works council.
Reality: Wrong. Our employees are developing an employee representation that suits them best, with extensive rights enshrined by contractual obligation.
Our employees have developed the proposal for the tailored employee representation of their own accord and independently from Management. The company has welcomed this concrete proposal and assured their support for its further development.
The representation will have far-reaching competencies that have been tailored to the needs of the employees. These can also extend to areas where a works council would not have any rights, for instance in the area of staff development.
Over and above that, the company is aware of the strong legal position that traditional works councils are given and welcomes the inclusion of this strength into the new system too. Therefore, the committee that is to be established will be based on a contract that includes extensive safety mechanisms that obligates both sides to the contract over a long period and provides sanctions for any violations. This could mean, for instance, that violations by the Management oblige the elected employee representatives to initiate the election of a works council.
Allegation: The management of Goodgame Studios is against a workers’ council.
Reality: Wrong. The management of Goodgame Studios does not oppose a workers’ council.
Employee participation is very important to us and we already offer a variety of platforms for this. Employees can ask direct questions to the management during all-employee meetings or ‘fireside chats’. Feedback can even be given anonymously via alternative platforms, and a few months ago a work group was founded in order to champion the interests of the employees. If our employees want to establish a workers’ council in addition to that, we will naturally respect that decision.
Allegation: The employees were dismissed because they wanted to found a workers’ council.
Reality: Wrong.The layoffs happened for other, individual reasons.
Every layoff is a very difficult decision for us and we therefore assess each of them very thoroughly. We definitely did not know anything about plans for the foundation of a workers’ council. Against these accusations by the press we are also taking a strong stance. Every layoff happened for individual, compelling operational reasons, such as to reduce overstaffing or due to misbehaviour or performance deficits.
Allegation: All of the 28 employees who were dismissed wanted to found a workers’ council.
Reality: Wrong. Apparently only a few of these employees wanted to found a workers’ council.
Ver.di itself has confirmed in their press release that not all employees who were actively involved in the foundation of a workers’ council have been dismissed from Goodgame Studios. Additionally, during an informative meeting on 16 December led by ver.di, those affected stated that only some of them were actively involved in the planning.
Allegation: The dismissed employees were not notified in advance that their performance was insufficient, neither in person nor through written notice.
Reality: Wrong. Extensive discussions took place and advance notices were given.
If layoffs take place due to operational reasons an advance notice is not required. All affected employees for whom performance-related or behavioural issues played a crucial role in the decision were informed in advance – sometimes several times.
Allegation: The employees were not given a reason for their notice.
Reality: Wrong. Every employee who was dismissed was invited to a clarification meeting.
All employees were offered a face-to-face meeting. Unfortunately, none of the employees have made use of this until now. Naturally, we remain available for these personal talks where we can also give specific reasons – to each employee individually – for the actions taken.
Allegation: Some of the positions previously held by the dismissed employees have already been refilled.
Reality: Wrong. None of these positions have been refilled.
Allegation: Goodgame Studios is trying to delay the election of a workers’ council.
Reality: Wrong. We want all employees to be well informed when they take part in the all-employees meeting.
This is another absurd statement that has been released to the press. Ver.di had initially tried to invite our employees as quickly as possible to an election in December:
- using the German language, which more than 36% of our staff do not speak
- in a location which provides room for only 96 people (7.5% of our staff)
- at a time where many employees are already on Christmas vacation
We have now come to a mutual agreement with ver.di to hold the all-employees meeting on 19/01/2016 in a sufficiently large venue in Hamburg that we jointly agreed on. This way, all employees will now receive an understandable invitation in English, the annual company holiday will be over, the room will be spacious enough for all employees and everyone will be sufficiently informed in advance.
We sincerely hope that as many employees as possible will come to the election and will make the decision that is right for them.
From the beginning, we have been as transparent as possible towards the public, as far as permitted by law in such cases. We will continue to do so in order to voice our perspective on the story, even if it does not always make it into the articles or is overshadowed with sensationalist statements. But we have trust that the well informed, quiet majority will form their own opinion.