Voice actor contract renegotiations remain at a standstill
The contract dispute between video game voice actors, represented by SAG-AFTRA, and various video game companies continues with no relief. Days after SAG-AFTRA launched a strike on Friday, October 21st, 11 video game companies, including Electronic Arts, Take Two, and Activision, banded together and launched a website disputing SAG-AFTRA's side of the story. The actors union responded in kind with legal action and a new picket line.
The "Video Game Companies," as they have labelled their collective effort, are using the website to make numerous claims against SAG-AFTRA including that "this is a strike that did not have to happen."
The Companies' claim deception on the part of SAG-AFTRA beginning with their failure to communicate to its members as to the items in the updated proposal from October 19.
First, the Companies claim they offered a 9 percent wage increase in the first year, which includes Additional Compensation for Principal Performers (a.k.a. actors who work more than one session on a game). The total, according to Scott J. Witlin, legal counsel for the Companies, comes out to $950 for those performers who work eight sessions.
Second, there was a disagreement in how to reduce stress on a performer's vocal chords. The disagreement centered on payment for a four-hour session as well as the scheduling of those sessions. The actors union wanted the sessions split into separate two-hour blocks. The Companies agreed but only within a specified window of time.
"It is our belief that the performers who SAG-AFTRA is asking to strike will find that differences between our offer and the Union’s demands are not so significant that they are worth striking over," said Witlin in a letter responding to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He and the AFL-CIO declared their solidarity with the actors union about a week ago.
The Companies also point out that their offer, the Comprehensive Revised and Enhanced Final Package Proposal, expires on December 1, just under a month away thus setting a timetable for negotiations.
SAG-AFTRA responded with legal action demanding the Companies "immediately cease infringing the union’s trademark and desist in its promotion of a deceptive website that masquerades as a SAG-AFTRA communications platform."
The Companies’ website includes SAG-AFTRA's name in the url and in a Twitter handle promoting the site.
"The companies are spending more for a week of service from their PR hired gun than video game voice artists are asking for in secondary compensation on the most successful games in the world," said SAG-AFTRA Chief Contracts Officer and Lead Negotiator Ray Rodriguez in a prepared statement sent out to the press.
“This is the crux of our problem with these companies," he continues. "They are not seriously addressing critical issues including how human beings are valued in the brutal technology marketplace. Our members want a deal. They want the respect they deserve for the extraordinary contributions they make to these companies’ products and bottom lines. They want serious consideration of their issues, not the indignity of a deceptive website."
SAG-AFTRA's website also includes a full list of video game titles affected by the strike. The actors union will also hold another picket line on Thursday, November 3 outside WB Games Inc. at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, CA.