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Video game voice actors on strike against major publishers

SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents many of the games industry’s voice actors, declared strike today against several major publishers due to unsuccessful contract negotiations.

The union and several major employers, such as Activision, Disney Character Voices, EA, Insomniac, Take 2, and WB Games, among others, have been negotiating talent contracts since February 2015. However, after more than 19 months of discussion, the parties have been put at odds over several major points, including secondary compensation, transparency, and safe working environments.

 

The Issues

According to SAG-AFTRA, the Interactive Contract was originally written in 1994, and it believes that the contract in its current form does not reflect the games industry today.

One update the union proposed is secondary compensation — bonuses to be granted based on a game’s sales performance. In this case, SAG-AFTRA proposed a bonus for every 2 million units sold or subscribers to online-only games, at a cap of 8 million units (four bonuses).

Additionally, the union requested more transparency in the audition process. Currently, studios are not required to divulge an actor’s role or the title of the project being auditioned for. SAG-AFTRA proposed that this practice be reversed so that actors can make informed decisions about taking a role or to negotiate appropriate compensation.

Thirdly, SAG-AFTRA is fighting for increased protection of its actors in regards to vocal stress and stunt work. The union’s revised contract would require a stunt coordinator to be present whenever stunts are performed, and it would reduce vocally stressful sessions (eg. painful death noises and creature voices) from four hours to two at four hours’ pay.

“SAG-AFTRA has gone to the negotiations table with serious concerns affecting voiceover and stunt performers,” said SAG-AFTRA Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez. “It’s time for video game employers to take our concerns seriously and negotiate a modern contract based on actor safety, industry precedent and best practices.”

Games Being Struck

According to the union’s website, any video game, including DLC and trailers, under the Interactive Contract that went into production after Feb. 17, 2015, and produced by the aforementioned employers, are covered under the strike. Notable entries include:
  • Skylanders series
  • FIFA 17
  • Lego Star Wars & Lego Marvel 2
  • Kingdom Hearts 2.8
  • Uncharted Collection marketing trailers (multiple)
  • Homefront 2 promotional trailer
  • Crash Bandicoot remaster project
  • Team Fortress 2
 A full list of titles is available here.

The Picket Line

The strike date is set for Monday, Oct. 24 at 10:30 a.m. when union members will converge on the picket line at EA’s Playa Vista, CA headquarters. SAG-AFTRA advocates are using the hashtag #performancematters to garner support through social media.

A Timeline of Negotiations

According to a press release from SAG-AFTRA’s website, contract negotiations have been occurring since Q1 2015:

  • Feb. 3-4, 2015: First negotiation date. Members deliver to employers a statement of support signed by more than 300 of the
    union’s top performers.
  • June 23, 2015: Second meeting with employers, attended by more than 50 members who work the video game contract, ends after
    just a few hours.
  • Sep. 23, 2015: SAG-AFTRA members tweet their support for voiceover actors using the hashtag #performancematters,
    which trends all afternoon and into the evening.
  • Sep. 15 – Oct. 6, 2015: SAG-AFTRA holds strike authorization vote. 96.55 percent of members voted yes for a strike
    authorization.
  • May 4, 2016: Prominent SAG-AFTRA members appear in a YouTube video stating they support the interactive negotiations.
    The video gets thousands of views.
  • May 4-5, 2016: Negotiations continued without progress.
  • May 25, 2016: SAG-AFTRA sends letter sent to California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) asking for an
    investigation into unsafe vocal recording sessions held by video game employers.
  • July 25-26, 2016: Negotiations continue with little to no progress.
  • Oct. 17-19, 2016: The final round of negotiations before the strike.
  • Oct. 21, 2016: The date set for SAG-AFTRA members to strike the interactive video game industry.

 

We’ll be updating the story as it develops…

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