Starting today at 3:01 a.m., SAG-AFTRA, the union for actors across film, television, radio, and videogames, is going on strike to protest the failure of videogame developers and publishers to reach a new contract with videogame voice actors.
According to SAG-AFTRA, the union has been working for the last 19 months to negotiate a new contract with publishers and developers that would address issues like secondary compensation, transparency, and health concerns being taken seriously, but has failed to reach a successful conclusion. Among the companies listed, the union will be striking Activision, Electronic Arts, Take 2 and WB Games, four of the biggest publishers in the industry.
Chief Contracts Office for SAG-AFTRA Ray Rodriguez said in a statement:
SAG-AFTRA has gone to the negotiations table with serious concerns affecting voiceover and stunt performers. 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.
Keythe Farley, a voice actor who has worked on Mass Effect 2 and 3, Fallout 4, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and who chairs the union’s Interactive Committee, said:
SAG-AFTRA doesn’t want to strike, who does? But we cannot stand by and watch our members suffer serious injury and put their careers at risk in the current environment. The time is now for a new contract for our members.
Scott J. Witlin of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, the firm that represents the game companies listed in the dispute, released the following statement regarding the strike:
The Video Game Companies had already scheduled bargaining sessions this week with SAG-AFTRA union leaders to attempt to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. We expect these negotiations to remain in place, and will continue to attempt to reach a fair and equitable contract despite the Union leadership’s most recent threatened labor action.
The existing contract between Video Game Companies and SAG-AFTRA pays all performers more than $100 an hour plus benefits and most performers many times that. The Companies’ current proposals on the negotiation table includes wage increases for most performers and additional avenues for compensation that could yield many hundreds of dollars more in payments for limited integration and ratification bonuses. Although the Companies have had only one report of workplace injury due to vocal stress, the Companies have continued to look to ways to reduce the burdens on performers in this area through the more flexible work scheduling and other innovative work arrangements.
We want to draw attention to the increased economic benefits and working condition improvements being offered because SAG-AFTRA’s website is inaccurate and out of date and does not reflect offers some of which have been on the table for more than a year.
It is important to note that the Video Game Companies’ upcoming games are already in production and the majority will be unaffected by any SAG-AFTRA strike due to the nature of the ‘no strike provisions’ of the collective bargaining agreement. We anticipate minimal impact on current and near-future game releases.
We produce Interactive Video Games for the enjoyment of people around the world and as a result we provide excellent jobs for many SAG-AFTRA members. Reaching a reasonable agreement is in the best interest of all parties, as well as the many fans of our games.
Union members will be picketing Electronic Arts in Playa Vista, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 24 at 10:30 a.m. PST.
You can read a more comprehensive breakdown of the union’s grievances and goals here.