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The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the union that represents voice actors whose work appears in AAA titles from some of the top game publishers in the business, is preparing to have its members go on strike after nearly two years of unsuccessful negotiations with the industry.
The union takes issue with the fact that the gaming industry doesn’t offer voice actors residual payment clauses or other forms of profit sharing. As Deadline highlights, SAG-AFTRA claims the industry has also rejected proposals that would limit stressful recording sessions to two hours in an effort to reduce the risk of permanent damage to an actor’s voice.
What’s more, the union doesn’t agree with a set of proposals from the gaming industry that would impose hefty fines if an agent doesn’t participate in every audition for which they’ve signed up for. Additionally, the industry wants the ability to fine voice actors more than $1,000 if they show up late for a session or aren’t fully engaged in the work.
The video game industry has traditionally been quite secretive, sometimes not even telling voice actors what project they’re working on. The union aims to change this and also have employers specifically outline the work that their members are being hired to perform.
Companies listed as targets of the strike include Activision, Blindlight, Corps of Discovery Films, Disney Character Voices, Electronic Arts, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Interactive Associates, Take-Two Interactive, VoiceWorks Productions and WB Games.
Scott J. Witlin, a lawyer with Barnes & Thornburg LLP which is representing the gaming industry, described the union’s threats as an unnecessary, precipitous action that would only harm its members. Part of the reason for this, Witlin notes, is that the SAG-AFTRA represents performers in less than 25 percent of video games on the market. As such, a strike would not only put union members out of work, it would give their non-union competitors a leg up during that time.
Witlin further notes that the existing contract between represented video game companies and the SAG-AFTRA pays all performers more than $100 an hour plus benefits. Some performers, he added, bring home substantially more than that.
With regard to workplace injuries, the industry says it has only had one report of injury due to vocal stress and continues to look for ways to reduce vocal stress via flexible work schedules and other arrangements.
Representatives from both sides are scheduled to participate in a negotiation session on October 17 through October 19 in hopes of hammering out a mutually agreeable deal ahead of the planned strike on October 21. If a strike does occur, it’ll only impact games that went into production after February 17, 2015.
Mockup courtesy GameTyrant