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SAG-AFTRA Blasts Activision Over Low Compensation for ‘Call of Duty’

Amping up its attacks on video game employers, SAG-AFTRA has announced its voice actor and performance capture members have received a minuscule 0.03% of the $15 billion in Activision’s “Call of Duty” revenues — or $4.5 million.

The union, which launched a strike on Oct. 21 against 11 video game companies, announced the figures Friday evening, saying that it had calculated member compensation for the “Call of Duty” franchise since 2003.

SAG-AFTRA understands that the great majority of work done on the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise was done by committed teams of animators, coders and developers — workers who were often required to put in 12-14 hour days, seven days a week for months at a time,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “While we applaud these herculean efforts, we believe that the culture of exploitation that exists in all aspects of the video game industry must come to an end.”

The union also asserted that its members who are heard on Activision’s “Call of Duty” franchise have helped make these games international bestsellers.

“In fact, ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops III’ is the top game on current-generation consoles, according to the company’s own figures,” SAG-AFTRA said. “That helps explain why Activision has reported record third-quarter revenue of $1.57 billion, up from $990 million the previous year. The company now expects to finish 2016 with $6.45 billion in revenue — exceeding its earlier forecasts.”

SAG-AFTRA drew several hundred supporters Thursday to picket Warner Bros. in Burbank, California, the second demonstration since the performers union went on strike. SAG-AFTRA launched the strike by voice actors against Activision, Warner Bros., and nine other video game makers after negotiations cratered over the key issues of secondary compensation (residuals) and transparency for voice actors — meaning that the union wants companies to stop being able to hire without identifying the game.

No new negotiations are scheduled. The companies have asserted that SAG-AFTRA is quibbling over the language of the deal and blasted the leadership for not allowing members to vote on the final offer, which would provide an immediate 9% pay hike.

Scott Witlin, negotiator for the companies, issued a statement in response to SAG-AFTRA’s announcement:

“SAG-AFTRA reinforces our position. While the performers who appear in the Video Companies’ games are of exceptional quality, they are but a small fraction of the talented people whose work goes into making video games that the public loves. We pay the these principal performers more than $100 per hour and seek to give them an immediate raise of at least 9% plus additional compensation. SAG-AFTRA refuses to allow its members to have a democratic vote on this generous proposal. We call upon SAG-AFTRA to let its members have a voice in their own affairs.”

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