The negotiation team for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has rejected the latest proposal from negotiators acting on behalf of video game employers ahead of strike action set to take place from today, October 21st. Negotiators described this as a final offer, and the deal included an immediate 9% wage hike, as well as compensation up to $950 based on the number of sessions a performer works on a game. Both concessions came with the caveat that the offer must be ratified by SAG-AFTRA members by December 1st.
Barnes and Thornburg LLP are acting as chief negotiators on behalf of the companies, and their representative Scott J. Witlin had this to say about the talks, in a story reported by PR Newswire:
We had hoped this would be successful, but union leadership left mediation without providing a counteroffer. We urged union leaders to put the package to a vote of their membership, but union leaders refused. We improved our offer to demonstrate our willingness to reach a fair, mutually-beneficial agreement after 18 months of negotiations. The union has demanded a contingency fee based upon number of games sold or subscribers. Instead of that, we are offering to immediately reward the hard work of performers through this accelerated raise and Additional Compensation package.Witlin's comments touch on the main sticking point for members of the group representing voice and other video game acting talent. According to comments made by SAG-AFTRA to members after the news of the rejected offer was released, the areas where the two sides are furthest apart are secondary compensation and transparency. SAG-AFTRA has made it clear previously that they want video game employers to have the option to offer an upfront performance bonus or strike a deal for ongoing compensation based on units sold. The union argues that this presents smaller companies the option to engage top-level talent when budgets may otherwise prevent it.
When the union refers to transparency, they are talking about the fact that a games company does not have to disclose the name of the game an actor will be working on to their agent when offering a contract. They are obliged to disclose any potentially objectionable material, but SAG-AFTRA and its members feel they should be able to make an informed choice on the roles they accept. It is reported that other issues raised previously such as a provision for stunt coordinators and other points relating to the safety and well-being of performers were close to being agreed.
The strike only affects games that went into production after February 17th, 2015, and is focused on the companies reported in our previous article when the strike date was set. These are as follows:
- Activision Publishing, Inc.
- Blindlight, LLC
- Corps of Discovery Films
- Disney Character Voices, Inc.
- Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.
- Formosa Interactive, LLC
- Insomniac Games, Inc.
- Interactive Associates, Inc.
- Take 2 Interactive Software
- VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.
- WB Games, Inc.
Neither side seems keen for the industrial action to take place, but SAG-AFTRA has said that they see this as a necessary move "to let employers know SAG-AFTRA members will stand fast to their principles and not be exploited." Scott J.Witlin's last comment on the matter was similarly regretful in tone; "Many of the Companies and people on our committee are the best evangelists for the use of SAG-AFTRA members in this industry. We hope SAG-AFTRA does not precipitously rush into a strike that will immediately and directly take money out of their members' pockets."
General Strike action began as of 12:01AM, PT, today but there is a more united action taking place too. Between the hours of 10:30AM and 12:30PM on Monday, 24th October, members of SAG-AFTRA are encouraged to join a picket line outside Electronic Arts (EA) offices at 5510 Lincoln Blvd, Playa Vista, CA 90094.
If you're just catching the news of the strike and would like to know everything as it happened, be sure to check our previous articles on the announcement, the vote, and the strike date. Let us know whether you'll be voicing your support for #performancematters, or otherwise, in the comments below.