SAG-AFTRA, the guild representing voice actors, has set October 21 as the date for its first ever strike against the games industry.
After more than 18 months of negotiations, which are detailed in this document, SAG-AFTRA's representatives will make one final attempt to reach a compromise with major companies from the games industry. Those meetings will take place between October 17 and 19, but a post on the guild's website displays little confidence in a positive outcome.
"Video game employers have steadfastly refused to reach a fair deal during our contract negotiations"
"Despite years of concerted effort and negotiating sessions, video game employers have steadfastly refused to reach a fair deal during our contract negotiations... Based on past experience, we are not confident management is willing to make the changes necessary to bring this contract up to the standards of our other agreements.
"Unless you hear differently from us, effective Oct. 21 at 12:01 a.m., you should be prepared to strike the following video game employers with regard to all games that went into production after Feb. 17, 2015."
The contract in question is the "Interactive Media Agreement," the terms of which were structured over 20 years ago. SAG-AFTRA's negotiating position is based on the premise that the games industry "was only beginning to utilise professional performances" in its products at that time.
An official SAG-AFTRA Strike Notice said the following: "Since then, games have evolved to provide increasingly immersive and cinematic experiences that compete with television and theatrical motion pictures for consumer dollars. It is time for this now mature industry to pay and treat professional performers according to the standards and precedents that our union has established and defended for generations."
"We have consistently conveyed to management both how serious we are about achieving these important aims for our members and our willingness to come to a reasonable deal. While we are disappointed that management's intransigence has forced to make this difficult choice, we remain available to bargain and continue to seek a fair and reasonable conclusion to this negotiation."
"Make sure that every actor you know - whether they are in the union or not - understands the importance of the issues and honors the strike"
A key issue for SAG-AFTRA's members is the fact that the games industry is "unique among our contracts" in not offering actors residual compensation, with a capped "back-end payment" on successful games suggested. It also asks for sessions involving "stressful vocalisations" - painful deaths, creature voices, grunts, barks, etc. - to be limited to two hours but paid at a four hour session rate. Other key issues are greater transparency about what individual roles will require before any contract is signed, and that stunt co-ordinators be present during sessions that demand physical activity.
If the strike goes ahead, SAG-AFTRA's members will cease work on any game that started production after February 17, 2015. That includes voice acting, but also motion and performance capture, stunt work, the use of previously recorded work, performance in trailers, and a number of other services. SAG-AFTRA has asked all of its members to, "make sure that every actor you know - whether they are in the union or not - understands the importance of the issues and honors the strike." Indeed, some of the industry's most prominent voice talent has already expressed its support of a possible strike, including Jennifer Hale, David Hayter and Wil Wheaton.
The following companies were listed as targets of the strike:
- Activision Publishing, Inc.
- Blindlight, LLC
- Corps of Discovery Films
- Disney Character Voices, Inc.
- Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.
- Formosa Interactive, LLC
- Insomniac Games, Inc.
- Interactive Associates, Inc.
- Take 2 Interactive Software
- VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.
- WB Games, Inc.