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Game companies say SAG-AFTRA strike would harm its own members

Law firm representing the industry says the union's members work on less than 25% of games made

The law firm representing the game companies in negotiations with SAG-AFTRA has accused the union of violating a "mutually agreed upon" news black-out, while also claiming that the proposed strike would ultimately only harm its membership.

Scott J. Witlin, a representative of the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, published a statement in response to SAG-AFTRA setting a date for its proposed strike. Witlin said that Barnes & Thornburg and the "coalition of Interactive Video Game Publishing Companies" that it represents were "deeply disappointed" to learn of the threatened strike.

"We anticipate minimal impact on current and near-future game releases"

"We have negotiated in good faith for the past 18 months with SAG-AFTRA union leaders, and are making progress toward a new contract," he said in the statement, which can be read in full here. Witlin framed the strike as potentially harmful to SAG-AFTRA's members, which provide their services to "less than 25%" of games in the market. "Any strike would not only deny SAG-AFTRA's membership work, but this would also give their competitors, who do not engage union talent, a leg up while any strike would be in place."

It is not clear whether that assessment of the market includes the full breadth of games released. Mobile games - which represent the majority of products released on any given week - rarely require voice actors, for example, but then that is unlikely to be the part of the industry that SAG-AFTRA is seeking to change. The most obvious target of any strike would be the kind of AAA games found on consoles, which make extensive use of acting talent for voice work, motion capture and performance capture, among other services.

Witlin noted - as SAG-AFTRA did when it proposed the strike date - that the two sides are scheduled to meet this week. Indeed, this (October 18) is the second of three days set aside for a last ditch attempt at finding a resolution. "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," Witlin said.

However, it's clear that the game companies believe they have already offered ample recompense for the services of SAG-AFTRA's members. In addition, they questioned the union's claims that its members were not sufficiently protected from possible harm during, "stressful vocalisations."

"Any strike would not only deny SAG-AFTRA's membership work, but this would also give their competitors...a leg up while any strike would be in place"

"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," Witlin continued. "The Companies' current proposals on the negotiation table include 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."

Witlin finished the statement with a reminder that "the majority" of games will be unaffected by a strike. "We anticipate minimal impact on current and near-future game releases," he said.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.