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Voice Actors Strike After Negotiations Fail With Game Publishers

by Jeff Cork on Oct 21, 2016 at 04:30 AM

Days after a final set of negotiations failed, the SAG-AFTRA union has officially called for a voice-actor strike against gaming companies including Activision, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two. The decision will affect games that went into production after February 17, 2015.

As we explained in our report earlier this week, points of contention included working environments, the ability for companies to hire non-union actors, and bonus structures. The two parties met earlier in the week in one last effort to settle contract terms, but the discussions didn't resolve the core issues.

“Through many months of bargaining with interactive employers, we have not reached a fair agreement covering SAG-AFTRA performers working in video games – often the most popular games in the world. Our members have been clear, now is the time for employers to negotiate a modern contract that covers this highly profitable industry,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris in a statement released to Deadline on Sunday night. “A strike is not to be entered into lightly, but when the employers leave us with no recourse, we must stand firm for our members. It is imperative that we secure for them the protections, compensation and benefits they deserve.”

Scott J. Witlin of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg LLP that represents the game publishers issued the following 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,” said . “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.”

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.

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.

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.

The union says it will be picketing EA's offices in Playa Vista, Calif., at 10:30 a.m. on Monday.

For additional background information on the strike, take a look at our earlier feature, which breaks down the major points.


Our Take
Strikes can resolve themselves quickly or drag on for months or longer. Now we just wait to see who blinks first.