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SAG-AFTRA, Video Game Companies Open to Talks After 8-Month Strike

SAG-AFTRA and the major video game companies both said Friday that they are open to resuming talks, eight months after negotiations cratered and the performers union went on strike.

Neither side committed to the next step of returning to the bargaining table, however.

“We’ve received the game companies’ press release extending a welcome back to the bargaining table,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement. “We would welcome an honest overture from management indicating they are prepared to move on our issues. Their negotiator knows where to reach us.”

In response, the video game companies said, “The Interactive Video Games Companies are always open to discussion. We hope SAG-AFTRA union leaders will engage in thoughtful and meaningful discussions that will benefit all parties.”

Negotiations collapsed in October, resulting in SAG-AFTRA calling a strike on Oct. 21 against 11 major video game producers: Insomniac Games; Warner Bros.; EA; Activision Publishing; Blindlight; Corps of Discovery Films; Disney Character Voices, Inc.; Formosa Interactive, LLC; Interactive Associates; Take 2 Interactive Software; and VoiceWorks Productions.

The key issues are secondary compensation (residuals) and transparency for voice actors — meaning that the union wants companies to stop being able to hire without identifying the game. Scott Witlin, who represents the video game companies, has said repeatedly that SAG-AFTRA was quibbling over the language of the deal and has blasted the leadership for not allowing members to vote on the final offer, providing an immediate 9% pay hike.

Friday’s statements were prompted by the companies attempting to refute recent reports that the union was making progress in its efforts to sign deals with videgame companies at the terms it was seeking last year.

“None of the Interactive Video Game Companies that have bargained together have signed a contract with SAG-AFTRA,” the companies said Thursday. “Any report or statement that suggests otherwise is either mistaken or direct misinformation.”

SAG-AFTRA responded on Thursday by asserting that it had signed 45 games and 33 companies to independently negotiated video game agreements since the strike began. It also recently issued a “non-struck” list of games in production that includes both “safe harbor” titles along with newly signed titles.

During the strike, the union picketed Activision, Warner Bros., and Insomniac Games, along with marching from its Los Angeles headquarters to the park next to the La Brea Tar Pits for a rally. Each of the events drew several hundred supporters with Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA, taking a turn at the megaphone.

Carteris is also the chief of the union’s negotiating committee, which is bargaining on a successor deal to its master contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The current deal, which covers film and TV work, expires June 30.

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