SAG-AFTRA video game strike ends after a year

Deal boosts bonus payments for voice performers: Union
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 09/26/2017

LOS ANGELES – REUTERS (Variety.com) — SAG-AFTRA and the video game industry have reached an agreement to end the nearly year-long strike by the union.

The two sides reached an agreement during the weekend. SAG-AFTRA held four raucous rallies during the strike.

"We want to thank our counterparts at SAG-AFTRA for their efforts to conclude this labour dispute and reach a deal that will bring SAG-AFTRA members back to work on upcoming videogame projects," said chief negotiator Scott Witlin. "The videogame companies and SAG-AFTRA both worked hard to reach this deal and end the strike."

The strike began Oct. 21, 2016, against nine of the top American video game producers, developers, and publishers. The dispute was officially resolved in the early morning hours of Sept. 23. The new contract will run for three years from the date of ratification by SAG-AFTRA which should take place in the coming weeks.

The companies said the new contract provides a "substantial" pay increase for performers through both bumps in session fees and additional compensation tied to a performer's contribution to the video game. In addition, the companies agreed to additional transparency in bookings and to continue to cooperate with SAG-AFTRA in the area of safety, including vocal stress.

The deal on the Interactive Media Agreement was bargained by Activision Productions, Inc.; Blindlight, LLC; Disney Character Voices, Inc.; Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.; Formosa Interactive, LLC; Insomniac Games, Inc.; Take 2 Productions, Inc.; VoiceWorks Productions, Inc., and WB Games, Inc.

SAG-AFTRA's last proposal provided for residuals, vocal-stress protections, coverage of stunt coordinators, and disclosure of what the work entails before the performer agrees to the job. During the strike, the companies repeatedly blasted the union leadership for not allowing members to vote on the final offer, providing an immediate nine per cent pay hike.

The union picketed Activision, Warner Bros., and Insomniac Games during the strike in late 2016. It also marched from its Los Angeles headquarters to the park next to the La Brea Tar Pits for a rally in February, but did not hold a rally after that.

SAG-AFTRA said the deal includes a new bonus structure that provides an additional payment to performers. The bonus payment, which is due no later than the release date of the game, is based on the number of sessions worked on each game, beginning with a $75 payment on the first session and totaling $2,100 after 10 sessions worked.

"This is an important advance in this critical industry space. We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members' key concerns," said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. "The courage of our members and their fortitude these many months has been admirable and I salute them. We are always stronger together."

Keythe Farley, chair of the SAG-AFTRA Interactive Negotiating Committee, said the strike resulted in key victories for member performers in the video game community.

"The bonus payments we have now are significantly larger now than what we had 11 months ago. And the existence of additional payments beyond your session fee is in the video game world for good, both in our high-budget and independent promulgated agreements," said Farley. "Those are the victories that this strike has brought us."

Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez, who was the lead negotiator on the new contract, said the transparency provisions will require the companies to disclose the code name of project, its genre, whether the game is based on previously published intellectual property and whether the performer is reprising a prior role.

"Members are also protected by the disclosure of whether they will be required to use unusual terminology, profanity or racial slurs, whether there will be content of a sexual or violent nature and whether stunts will be required," he added.

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