The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has set a strike date of October 21 after a series of negotiating sessions with video game companies that hire voice actors and actresses.
The guild said in a post,”Despite years of concerted effort and negotiating sessions, video game employers have steadfastly refused to reach a fair deal during our contract negotiations.”
It looks like there is still a chance to avert a strike. Negotiations have been underway on topics such as “contingent compensation,” or residual payments based on profit sharing. The union says the industry has also rejected proposed health allowances, such as limiting vocally stressful sessions to two hours to prevent damage to the actor’s voice.
“We head back to the table Oct. 17-19 with the goal of creating a fair contract that is rooted in industry standards and best practices,” the group said. “Based on past experience, we are not confident management is willing to make the changes necessary to bring this contract up to the standards of our other agreements.”
The strike date is effective October 21 at 12:01 a.m., against the following companies: Activision Publishing, Blindlight, Corps of Discovery Films, Disney Character Voices, Electronic Arts, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Interactive Associates, Take-Two Interactive, VoiceWorks Productions, and WB Games. Not all game companies will be affected.
Meanwhile, a law firm representing the companies issued a statement. Scott J. Witlin of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg said in a statement, “We have negotiated in good faith for the past 18 months with SAG-AFTRA union leaders, and are making progress toward a new contract. We are deeply disappointed to learn today of the union’s threatened strike and its unilateral violation of the mutually agreed upon ‘news black-out’ on negotiation discussions.”
He added, “We consider the Union’s threatened labor action to call a strike precipitous, unnecessary and an action that will only harm their membership. SAG-AFTRA represents performers in less than 25% of the video games on the market. Any strike would not only deny SAG-AFTRA’s membership work, but this would also give their competitors, who do not engage union talent, a leg up while any strike would be in place. The video game companies had already scheduled bargaining sessions this week with SAG-AFTRA union leaders to attempt to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. We expect these negotiations to remain in place, and will continue to attempt to reach a fair and equitable contract despite the Union leadership’s most recent threatened labor action.”
And he said, “The existing contract between video game companies and SAG-AFTRA pays all performers more than $100 an hour plus benefits and most performers many times that. The companies’ current proposals on the negotiation table includes wage increases for most performers and additional avenues for compensation that could yield many hundreds of dollars more in payments for limited integration and ratification bonuses. Although the companies have had only one report of workplace injury due to vocal stress, the companies have continued to look to ways to reduce the burdens on performers in this area through the more flexible work scheduling and other innovative work arrangements. We want to draw attention to the increased economic benefits and working condition improvements being offered because SAG-AFTRA’s website is inaccurate and out of date and does not reflect offers some of which have been on the table for more than a year.”
Lastly, Witlin said, “It is important to note that the video game companies’ upcoming games are already in production and the majority will be unaffected by any SAG-AFTRA strike due to the nature of the ‘no strike provisions’ of the collective bargaining agreement. We anticipate minimal impact on current and near-future game releases. We produce interactive video games for the enjoyment of people around the world and as a result we provide excellent jobs for many SAG-AFTRA members. Reaching a reasonable agreement is in the best interest of all parties, as well as the many fans of our games.”
Updated 12:42 a.m. Pacific on October 17 with company response.