Content production for the interactive novel Lovestruck has stalled due to a dispute between Voltage Entertainment and a collective of 21 writers.
Last week, a group of 21 writers announced the decision to go on strike. The group, which has adopted the name Voltage Organized Workers (VOW), demanded "better working conditions, greater transparency, and increased protections."
"All of the Lovestruck writers are members of marginalized genders and/or sexualities," the group's statement read. "We have been given an invaluable foot in the door to the industry and a platform to tell stories that represent our voices, our passion, and our experiences. We are also all fans of the app, and we care deeply about the stories we tell.
"However, not only are we paid less than half the industry standard rate, we are asked to meet extremely tight deadlines and produce enormous amounts of content without protections or benefits."
"We are asked to meet extremely tight deadlines and produce enormous amounts of content without protections or benefits"
Voltage Organized Workers
VOW asked anyone reading the statement to send messages in support of their cause to Lovestruck's publisher, Voltage Entertainment. However, it also asked that nobody boycott the game, as their desire was to return to work after collectively negotiating for a better deal.
A subsequent post from VOW on July 20 revealed that Voltage Entertainment's management was negotiating with the group, but an agreement that would end the strike had not been reached.
However, Voltage Entertainment released a statement of its own, which indicated that it "[considers] this unfortunate situation resolved," and that resolution does not involve a new collective agreement with VOW.
"Our hope was to not lose any of our contract writers and to be able to come to a satisfactory agreement with each of them," the company said.
"We also understand that they define their own worth as independent contractors and have the right and freedom to reject contracts that do not meet their expectations."
The writers' status as independent contractors is key to Voltage Entertainment's position, as all ties to the group are based on "at will" terms that can be rejected or accepted based on individual preference.
"Voltage Organized Workers' is not a recognized union. It is composed of individual freelance contractors"
"'Voltage Organized Workers' is not a recognized union," the company continued. "It is composed of individual freelance contractors. Each writer is an external freelance contracted individual. The writers are not in-house employees."
Voltage Entertainment said that it has attempted to negotiate better terms with each individual writer on two occasions. The first, on July 15, was "outright rejected" due to the group only being interested in a collective bargaining process.
Voltage alleges that the group started a social media campaign "within 20 minutes" of that rejection, which made "false statements and claims" about the situation.
The second attempted negotiation was on July 17, at which point the group had stopped working on Lovestruck content. Voltage claims it offered "a very favourable rate increase" to the writers on an individual basis, but was again rebuffed due to the demand for collective bargaining.
Voltage added: "Collective bargaining refers to the negotiation process between an employer and a union comprised of [sic] workers to create an agreement that will govern the terms and conditions of the workers' employment. 'Voltage Organized Workers' is not a union."
The company is now looking for new writers to take the place of those involved with VOW, at the same rates they offered in the July 17 negotiations. Voltage Entertainment advised that some of the series on the Lovestruck platform will be "delayed for the foreseeable future" as a result of the action.
VOW admitted to its surprise at the statement from Voltage Entertainment, stating that none of its 21 members have had their contracts terminated.