Voice actors who are members of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) are on a strike after not being able to reach an agreement with 11 major video game publishers. The union unanimously voted that it would be on strike if an agreement would not be made by 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2016. After 19 months of negotiations, the deadline was not met.
The list of demands from the 150,000 SAG-AFTRA members vary from stunt pay for sessions that are “vocally stressful” and an industry standard baseline rate of $825 for four-hour recording sessions to royalty payments for voice-over actors who work on games that sell two million copies.
The union, which represents actors whose voices and likenesses are used in games, issued the following statement:
“In this industry, which frequently uses performers and understands the intermittent and unpredictable nature of this type of work, fair compensation includes secondary payments when games hit a certain level of success with consumers, not simply higher upfront wages. Secondary compensation is what allows professional performers to feed their families in between jobs.
No matter what these companies are peddling in their press releases, this negotiation is not only about upfront compensation. It is about fairness and the ability of middle-class performers to survive in this industry. These companies are immensely profitable, and successful games—which are the only games this dispute is about—drive that profit.
We have proposed a fair payment structure that enables the sustainability of a professional performer community. These employers have unreasonably refused that. The time has come to end the freeloader model of compensation and that is why our members are united behind this cause.”
The gaming companies—Activision Publishing, Blindlight, Corps of Discovery Films, Disney Character Voices, Electronic Arts, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Interactive Associates, Take-Two Interactive, VoiceWorks Productions, and WB Games—said in a joint release that they offered an immediate 9 percent pay increase and added compensation for games requiring multiple recording sessions.
“We had hoped this would be successful, but union leadership left mediation without providing a counteroffer,” said Scott J. Witlin, the chief negotiator for the companies and an attorney with law firm Barnes & Thornburg, in a statement. “We urged union leaders to put the package to a vote of their membership, but union leaders refused”
How does this affect the release of games? According to Witlin, “the majority of upcoming games already in production will be unaffected by any SAG-AFTRA strike.” The reason being is the “No Strike Provisions” in agreements that require voice-over actors who are already working on a project to see it through completion.
Members are slated to picket outside of the Playa Vista Electronic Arts offices on Monday.