Members of the SAG-AFTRA video games negotiating committee made it clear today that the union bent over backwards to make a deal before launching a strike against targeted companies.
“Every time they raised an issue, we tried to find a compromise,” said Keythe Farley, chair of the union interactive committee, during a press conference. “We made every effort we could to make a deal.”
SAG-AFTRA said it will put up its first picket line Monday outside the offices of Electronic Arts in Playa Vista, where union president Gabrielle Carteris will join the workers. Rolling picket lines are expected in the coming days at the other companies targeted in the strike including WB Games; Disney Character Voices; Activision Publishing; Blindlight; Corps of Discovery Films; Formosa Interactive; Insomniac Games; Interactive Associates; Take 2 Interactive Software; and VoiceWorks Productions.
The contract talks, which broke off Wednesday, had been an on-again, off-again affair for 19 months. “This was one of the longest negotiations for a SAG-AFTRA contract ever,” said voice over actor Crispin Freeman, a member of the committee. “There was a point where we didn’t know what else to do.”
The main sticking point was residuals, or a buyout of residuals, for performers whose work is featured in the most successful games.
The two sides came very close to an agreement on the issue, but couldn’t agree on what to call it. Seeking to set a precedent that might lead to residuals in future negotiations, the union asked for an upfront buyout of “secondary compensation” (i.e., residuals), but the companies refused to call it that. Instead, it offered a nearly identical proposal that it calls “additional compensation.”
Both sides’ plans would have given actors a bonus on top of their regular pay when they work on more than one session per game, topping out at $950 for eight sessions.
The companies’ chief negotiator has called this a strike “over terminology,” which the union flatly denies. “This is not about terminology,” said Ray Rodriguez, the union’s chief contracts officer. “It’s about fair treatment and respect for performers.”
Rodriguez also took issue with the companies’ call for the union to put its last contract offer to a vote of the union’s members, saying that the union “will not be dictated to by the employers” on how it works with its members, who he said are firmly behind the strike.
Rodriquez also took issue with the companies’ claim that the strike will have little or no immediate impact on the industry, saying that games that employ the union’s members will be impacted immediately when they honor the strike by refusing to show up for work.