Video game voice actors threaten strike action

Discussions reach impasse as SAG-AFTRA members vote to halt work
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The union for video game voice actors, SAG-AFTRA, is currently voting on strike action after reaching a deadlock in negotiations over a new pay deal with publishers.

The two sides have held discussions for months over a new contract deal, but no solution has been forthcoming. Talks now appear to have reached an impasse, resulting in the organisation considering strike action.

A key hurdle in negotiations is the union’s position on back-end bonuses. This would entitle video game voice actors to residual payments based on the money made by top triple-A titles. These secondary payments are often said to be giving to actors in film, animation, TV and commercials.

The union argues that these bonuses are given to a number of people in the game industry, and highlights the fact that Activision’s COO took home a bonus of nearly $4m last year. EA’s executive chairman meanwhile claimed a $1.5m bonus. It states that voice actors should get their share of such bonuses too.

Its proposal is to structure residual payments that are triggered after a game sells two million copies.

“As for the big games, we know the companies already budget for sales-based bonuses for many of their employees,” read a statement on the SAG-AFTRA website.

“So maybe the companies are trying to protect the budgets for their top executive bonuses, but is it not reasonable to suggest that performers should also share in these successes?”

Game Informer reports that other talking points in the deal include stunt pay for actors, while the union also disagrees with publishers able to hire their own employees for voice work, without requiring them to join SAG-AFTRA.

The union has also claimed that employers’ proposals for a new contract deal may not even be legal.

“It comes down to a question of power,” read a statement. “The employers can dig in their heels indefinitely. A strong strike authorisation vote is the best way to shift the power dynamic.”

The period for voting for strike action began on September 16th and ends on October 5th.

Should its vote for strike action be successful, for which it needs 75 per cent of voters to vote yes, the union has said it will reach out to employers and ask them to return to contract talks. If publishers refuse, it will escalate strike action.

The strike will cover any project that has been covered by the Interactive Media Agreement, which the website states “means any video game”. No member will be able to work on a game during this time.

As for non-members, SAG-AFTRA has warned that those who do not strike may jeopardise their ability to become a member in future.

A number of video game voice actors and others in the industry have tweeted in support of the union under the hashtag #PerformanceMatters. On an official basis however, Game Informer reports that both sides have agreed to a media blackout.

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