SAG-AFTRA logo
SAG-AFTRA logo

The SAG-AFTRA actors’ union went on strike Friday against 11 video game companies following 19 months of negotiations centering on greater compensation for voice-over and stunt performers.

The work stoppage, which began at 12:01 a.m., covers games that went into production after Feb. 17, 2015, according to a union statement.

The strike targets Electronic Arts, Activision Publishing Inc., Blindlight LLC, Corps of Discovery Films, Disney Character Voices Inc., Formosa Interactive LLC, Insomniac Games Inc., Interactive Associates Inc., Take 2 Interactive Software, VoiceWorks Productions Inc. and WB Games Inc.

Scott J. Witlin, chief negotiator for the video game companies, said the firms were “disappointed” that the union didn’t allow its members to vote on the companies’ latest offer.

“We believe SAG-AFTRA performers should be allowed to look at what we offered and compare it to the union’s last demand — and see that the terminology and other minimal differences are not worth striking over,” Witlin said.

The union, the largest in the entertainment industry, is reported to be seeking a compensation structure that would allow actors to start receiving residual-like payments based on a game’s commercial success. It also demands improved safety conditions for performers.

The proposed bonus system would have allowed actors to receive additional payments for every 2 million copies or downloads sold, with a cap at 8 million, the Los Angeles Times reported.

But the video game companies balked at the plan, instead proposing on Wednesday a 9 percent wage increase. They are also offering additional compensation of up to $950 per game based upon the number of sessions a performer works on a particular video.

“No matter what these companies are peddling in their press releases, this negotiation is not only about upfront compensation. It is about fairness and the ability of middle-class performers to survive in this industry,” a union statement said Thursday. “These companies are immensely profitable, and successful games — which are the only games this dispute is about — drive that profit.”

Witlin said the only significant difference between the parties is the terminology the companies are using for the “additional compensation” they have offered, with SAG-AFTRA insisting that it be called “contingent compensation.” He said despite the terminology, the payment structures are “almost identical.”

“The strike will have little to no immediate impact on the ability of fans to buy and play the video games they love as the majority of upcoming games already are in production — and the union is not permitted to strike most of the games due to the nature of the `No Strike Provisions’ of the interactive media agreement,” Witlin said. “The sad part is that the very performers who these companies value — and who are impacted by the union decision to strike — never got a chance to vote on the Companies’ proposal.”

The parties have largely reached agreement on other outstanding issues, including vocal stress and stunt coordination, and have made substantial progress on transparency, according to the companies.

A federal mediator joined the discussions Wednesday but did not stave off the strike, whose intended duration was not immediately reported.

— City News Service

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