SAG-AFTRA Says Its Vid Game Industry’s Turn To Compromise To End Strike

David Robb/Deadline

The 11-day-old actors’ strike against video game industry will not end until the companies compromise on their refusal to offer some type of residuals for the most successful games, SAG-AFTRA said today. Claiming that it’s already compromised enough, the union says that now “It’s their turn to be reasonable and compromise.”

 “Secondary payments are a core issue for professional performers across all the contracts we negotiate because they enable a freelance workforce to survive between jobs,” the union said. “They also reflect the respect our members deserve for contributing their creativity, voices and likenesses to the games they bring to life.”

The companies remain resistant to paying residuals to actors, the union said, because “they appear to be concerned that if they are seen to compromise with one group of employees, other groups of their employees might get ideas.”

“These companies pay bonuses – and sometimes even game royalties – to their animators and developers, and so they should,” the union said. “The game companies say that they don’t offer residual payments of any kind to programmers, artists, and other people who work on video games.”

The union, however, says that this is “demonstrably not true. Take2 Interactive, for example, reported that it paid about $270 million in internal royalties in their most recent quarterly filing with the SEC. We also know from speaking to developers that many, if not most, video game corporations pay bonuses based on the success of the company. What we have proposed is really no different as applied to freelance workers – we want bonus payments for performers working on the most successful games.”

The main strike issue remains the union’s insistence on establishing back-end residuals payments — or a buy out of those residuals — for performers who work on games that sell more than 2 million units. The two sides came very close to an agreement on the buyout 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,” 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 union, however, wanted to give the companies the option of paying the upfront bonus or paying residuals for successful games.

“We have tried to accommodate the employers’ concerns by introducing secondary payments into this contract in a way that allows them to preserve their existing compensation practices while allowing for other producers who sign the agreement to use a secondary compensation model in lieu of the additional upfront payments these employers have proposed,” the union said. “Not all game companies can afford to pay the upfront payments that the video game corporations have proposed. Even this modest compromise was rejected out of hand. We have gone as far as we’re going to go in the employers’ direction. It’s their turn to be reasonable and compromise. Now that a successful video game makes more than even the biggest box office blockbusters, there’s no excuse any longer for these employers to cling to a substandard agreement negotiated 20 years ago.

 The companies say that “The one economic difference between the parties is the companies’ response to the SAG-AFTRA demand for additional income for performers. But here the difference is more about semantics – not about actual money for performers. The main difference is the terminology – what that additional money is called. The SAG-AFTRA proposal has two options for game producers. The union’s first proposal for an optional ‘contingent fees’ structure is so onerous that no one would elect to use it. The union’s second option is virtually identical in money to the companies’ proposal. While the companies will not call that money a ‘buyout of contingent compensation,’ they will pay it to principal performers who work more than one session on a game.”

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