Unable to get video game producers to meet their demands at the bargaining table – and unwilling to carry through with their threat to call a strike – SAG-AFTRA instead has “promulgated” a new low-budget contract and is hoping that some video game producers will sign it. Few are expected to, however.
The union’s old Interactive Media Agreement expired on December 31, 2014, and members of the union voted overwhelmingly in October to authorize the union’s board to call a strike against the gaming industry, which rakes in about $20 billion a year. The strike never was called, however, and now the union is offering producers the same contract terms it couldn’t get during the failed negotiations.
The union’s chief demand all along has been for a type of residuals for voice performers based on sales. During the negotiations, the union was asking for backend bonuses for voice actors that would be triggered once a game sells 2 million units.
Under its new “promulgated” contract, performers will receive an additional full scale payment for each 500,000 units sold, up to four secondary payments if the game sells 2 million units.
The union decided that minimum scale is $825.50 for each four hours of work, and that “vocally stressful work” – such as yelling and screaming – will be paid at double-scale per hour.
The union claims that “vocally stressful work” is a safety issue and tried to make that case in a presentation before Cal/OSHA earlier this year. “We’d rather not have to petition for new regulations,” the union said at the time, “but since the videogame employers are unwilling to address vocal stress in negotiations in a real way, we are investigating this further to protect the voices of our members.”
The union says that it’s heard many “truly disturbing” stories from its members about vocal stress injuries. “Among the injuries reported were instances of performers losing their voices for up to six months, tasting blood during their session, fainting or nearly fainting and damage resulting in a permanent change to vocal range. Vocal stress due to overwork has become increasingly prevalent, and the resulting injuries put members’ careers and livelihoods in jeopardy.”