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Video Game Voice Actors Now on Strike After Negotiations Fail

Nearly two years of negotiations failed.


[UPDATE] Representatives for the video game industry have now released a statement in the wake of the strike that began at 12:01 AM PT this morning.

"The Video Game Companies did everything in their power to reach agreement with union leaders, offering a money package almost identical to SAG-AFTRA's last demand," chief negotiator for the publishers, Scott Witlin, said. "We are greatly disappointed that SAG-AFTRA refuses to allow its members to have a democratic vote on our proposal and decide if the significant money on the table is acceptable to them. The strike is going to hurt the SAG-AFTRA performers that these Companies value."

"The strike will have little to no immediate impact on the ability of fans to buy and play the video games they love as the majority of upcoming games already are in production--and the union is not permitted to strike most of the games due to the nature of the 'No Strike Provisions' of the interactive media agreement," he added. "The sad part is that the very performers who these Companies value--and who are impacted by the union decision to strike--never got a chance to vote on the Companies' proposal."

The final offer from the video game industry was an immediate 9 percent wage hike and "additional compensation" of up to $950 per game depending on the number of sessions a performer worked on a game.

"We value our performers and their dedication," Witlin said. "Many of the Companies and people on our committee are the best evangelists for the use of SAG-AFTRA members in this industry. It is unfortunate that SAG-AFTRA rushed into a strike that will immediately and directly take money out of their members' pockets."

The original story is below.

Some video game voice actors are now on strike, after nearly two years of negotiations between the SAG-AFTRA union and publishers failed. The strike took effect today at 12:01 AM PT.

As announced previously, the SAG-AFTRA union has asked its members to strike some of the biggest publishers in gaming, including Activision, EA, Take-Two, Insomniac Games, and WB Games (see a full list here). According to the union, the strike covers all games from these companies that went into production after February 17, 2015.

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Additionally, SAG-AFTRA said some of its members will picket EA's Playa Visa, California office at 10:30 AM PT this coming Monday, October 24.

SAG-AFTRA says that its package of proposals is "not loaded with any crazy demands." Several prominent voice actors have spoken out in support of authorizing a strike, including Roger Craig Smith (Batman, Assassin's Creed), Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect, Guild Wars), and actor Wil Wheaton. According to Deadline, only about 25 percent of video games use union voice actors. This is the first strike in the history of video game performers.

According to the union, the gaming industry refuses to offer residual payment bonuses and other profit-sharing opportunities. Specifically, SAG-AFTRA asked that its performers receive an additional "full-scale payment" for every 500,000 units sold, for a maximum of four secondary payments if a game sells 2 million copies, Deadline reported. Additionally, the union claims that the industry has denied a proposal that would reduce the recording time for "vocally stressful" sessions to two hours to help prevent an actor from damaging their voice.

In a statement Thursday evening, SAG-AFTRA didn't mince words when talking about the negotiations and the residuals in particular.

"This group of video game employers knowingly feeds off other industries that pay these same performers fairly to make a living. This represents a 'freeloader model of compensation' that we believe cannot and should not continue," it said.

"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," it added. "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."

According to the video game publishers, it offered a 9 percent wage hike as part of the negotiations. Additionally, they offered additional compensation of up to $950 per game based on the number of voice acting sessions an actor did on a particular game. With the wage hike, this package could apparently lead to a 23 percent increase in pay for some actors.

As it stands, video game voice actors represented by SAG-AFTRA are paid at least $100/hour, plus benefits. Another proposal put forth in the negotiations would allow publishers to fine SAG-AFTRA "tens of thousands of dollars" if an approved agent is not involved with every audition for their client. The industry also reportedly wants a provision that would allow them to fine actors $1,000 or more if they show up late to work or are deemed to be not fully participating in a recording session.

According to SAG-AFTRA, the union would also like to see the gaming industry loosen up on some of its secrecy rules. As it stands, according to SAG-AFTRA, an actor sometimes does not even know the game he or she is auditioning for, which it argues is not fair.

"We had hoped this would be successful, but union leadership left mediation without providing a counteroffer," the lawyer representing the video game industry, Scott Witlin, said in a statement. "We urged union leaders to put the package to a vote of their membership, but union leaders refused."

"We value our performers and their dedication," he added. "The union has demanded a contingency fee based upon number of games sold or subscribers. Instead of that, we are offering to immediately reward the hard work of performers through this accelerated raise and additional compensation package."

Another thing to note that is the "majority" of upcoming games already in production will not be affected by the SAG-AFTRA strike, according to the industry, because of an existing "No Strike Provision" of the collective bargaining agreement.

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