SAG-AFTRA Reaches Deal To End Video Game Strike, Longest In Union’s History

David Robb/Deadline

UPDATED with more details: SAG-AFTRA and the major video game companies have reached a tentative agreement to end the longest strike in the union’s history. Up until this walkout, SAG’s 2000 commercial strike, which lasted 183 days, had been the longest.

The new deal, which must still be approved by the union’s board of directors, calls for “bonus pay” based on the number of sessions a performer works on each game, beginning with a $75 payment on the first session and capping out at $2,100 after 10 sessions worked.

It’s not quite the type of residuals system the union stuck for 340 days ago, but it’s close enough. SAG-AFTRA had been seeking a back-end payments schedule that would have given performers a full-day’s pay for each 500,000 units sold, up to four secondary payments if the game sells 2 million units.

“This is an important advance in this critical industry space,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members’ key concerns. The courage of our members and their fortitude these many months has been admirable and I salute them. We are always stronger together.”

The strike was launched October 21, 2016 against 11 major companies including Electronic Arts, WB Games and Activision.

Keythe Farley, chair of the SAG-AFTRA Interactive Negotiating Committee, said the strike delivered key victories for member performers in the video game community.

“The bonus payments we have now are significantly larger now than what we had 11 months ago,” he said. “And the existence of additional payments beyond your session fee is in the video game world for good, both in our high-budget and independent promulgated agreements. Those are the victories that this strike has brought us.”

Ray Rodriguez, the union’s chief contracts officer who was the lead negotiator on the new contract, said that the deal also includes significant improvements in the area of transparency.

“The new transparency provisions will enhance the bargaining power of our members’ representatives by requiring the companies to disclose the code name of project, its genre, whether the game is based on previously published intellectual property and whether the performer is reprising a prior role,” he said. “Members are also protected by the disclosure of whether they will be required to use unusual terminology, profanity or racial slurs, whether there will be content of a sexual or violent nature and whether stunts will be required.”

The deal also contains an employer commitment to continue working with SAG-AFTRA on the issue of vocal stress during the term of the agreement. And according to the union, the agreement doesn’t include several proposals sought by management, including a provision that would have fined performers for being late or distracted at session; another that would have required agents to submit performers for low-paying “atmospheric voice” sessions or face fines and a possible revocation of their union franchise, and another that would have allowed employers to use their permanent staff to do covered work outside of the collective bargaining agreement.

“We want to thank our counterparts at SAG-AFTRA for their efforts to conclude this labor dispute and reach a deal that will bring SAG-AFTRA members back to work on upcoming video game projects,” said Scott Witlin, the struck companies’ chief negotiator. “The video game companies and SAG-AFTRA both worked hard to reach this deal and end the strike.”

The contract will be reviewed by the SAG-AFTRA national board at its October meeting.

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