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SAG-AFTRA Threatens Strike Against Videogame Companies

The SAG-AFTRA National Board of Directors has set a Friday strike date against video game employers should they not agree to a new deal.

The union announced it will go on strike against Activision Publishing; Blindlight; Corps of Discovery Films; Disney Character Voices; Electronic Arts Productions; Formosa Interactive; Insomniac Games; Interactive Associates; Take 2 Interactive Software; VoiceWorks Productions; and WB Games. Unless a deal is struck during bargaining sessions scheduled for the first part of this week, all games that went into production after Feb. 17, 2015 for those employers will be struck.

SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said, “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.

“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,” Carteris added.

The dispute with the companies dates back over a year and a half. Negotiators for SAG-AFTRA sought a strike authorization in September, 2015, from video game voice actors after failed negotiations for a successor deal. The SAG-AFTRA constitution mandates that a strike authorization goes into effect only if backed by at least 75% of those voting; more than 96% of affected members voted in favor of the authorization.

At that point, one of the key proposals sought bonuses for voice actors on games that sell over 2 million units with subsequent payments when sales reach 4 million, 6 million and 8 million.The union contended that such bonuses are not uncommon in the videogame industry, noting that Activision’s chief operating officer received a bonus of $3,970,862 in 2014 and Electronic Arts paid their executive chairman a bonus of $1.5 million.

SAG-AFTRA had also proposed that actors receive stunt pay for vocally stressful recording sessions and that “vocally stressful” recording sessions be limited to two hours; and that stunt coordinators be hired on performance capture.

The union also said companies had proposed being able to fine actors and agents along with being able to use “persons employed on staff” as voice actors who would not be covered under the agreement.

Actors are working under the terms of a contract that expired at the end of 2014.

National Executive Director David White said Sunday, “We have received a clear and unambiguous message from the community who work this agreement that the situation they face has become intolerable. We are always prepared to reach a fair deal with employers, but they must play their part. It is a serious decision to conclude that a job action of this magnitude is necessary and we hope that we can reach a fair deal before the deadline set by the board. But make no mistake: if we are unable to find a way to address the minimum needs of our members, we will go on strike as planned.”

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