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AFTRA announces videogame pact

Union ratifies deal covering work through the end of 2014

Members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have ratified an agreement with the vidgame industry covering work through the end of 2014.

AFTRA announced the ratification Friday and said 85% of those voting, totalling about 1,916 “affected members,” had endorsed the deal.

AFTRA touted the deal last month as including the industry’s first-ever streaming payment paid to performers in the form of a new cloud gaming fee — an additional one-time payment of 15% of the session fee paid to every principal performer on a vidgame made available on streaming services.

“Cloud gaming is where this industry is headed, and AFTRA is in on the ground floor,” said AFTRA chief negotiator and assistant national executive director Mathis L. Dunn Jr. “This is a significant victory for AFTRA members.”

The new pact is effective retroactively to July 1 and includes a 1% hike on minimums effective upon ratification, bringing the fee for a four-hour session to $809 and an additional 2% increase on May 1, 2013.

AFTRA also agreed to commence bargaining on the next contract as soon as possible after Aug. 15, 2014, but no later than Sept. 30, 2014. In addition, contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Fund will be increased from 15% to 15.5%.

Current pact covers performers who work in interactive media, including personal computer programs, arcade games and interactive computer and video animation.

The Screen Actors Guild also covers videogame voice work, but SAG’s deal expired in 2009 after guild negotiators rejected the same tentative deal that AFTRA approved. AFTRA covers the lion’s share of unionized voice work for vidgames, but most of the voice work performed is non-union.

Scott J. Witlin of Barnes & Thornburg, chief negotiator for the videogame companies, said Friday, “We are pleased that we once again were able to work out an agreement with AFTRA. This agreement settles disputes that created some uncertainty and promotes game development in areas of emerging technology. This agreement is a testament to the hard work and professional approach of the people on both sides of the table.”

Witlin said the companies made a “last best final” offer to SAG six months ago and that both sides have been communicating since then.

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