Documents Prove Video Game Companies Met Union’s Economic and Other Demands For New Interactive Media Agreement

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Video Game Companies today released copies of the Companies’ and the Union’s last proposals which show that the Companies matched SAG-AFTRA’s requests for wages, benefits, and additional compensation before the Union called its strike. The documents also show that the Companies and the Union had reached agreement to collaboratively investigate vocal stress issues during the term of the next contract.

“These proposals exchanged across the table prove the Companies and SAG-AFTRA have largely agreed on the significant issues before us except for the label we have placed on the ‘Additional Compensation,’ which would be paid above and beyond our proposed 9% pay increase,” said Scott J. Witlin of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, the chief negotiator for the Video Game Companies. “The documents also demonstrate that the Companies value performers and reached agreement with the Union on the issue of vocal stress.”

Witlin reiterated that the Companies have been impressed by the research presented by SAG-AFTRA into the issue of vocal stress. The Companies attempted to address the concerns raised by the SAG-AFTRA bargaining committee during negotiations by offering performers innovative working arrangements including split sessions and multiple performer sessions, but those proposals were rejected by SAG-AFTRA leaders.

“Among their proposals, the Companies offered to split a 4-hour recording session into two, two-hour portions with the second session to be performed within five days of the first session to ease the stress on performers, but this and other offers were rejected by SAG-AFTRA. This is an area that the parties have agreed to continue to collaboratively investigate during the term of the next contract. Exploring ways to further improve working conditions is something both sides should be committed to,” Witlin added.

The Video Game Companies released a chart and supporting documentation from both the Companies and SAG-AFTRA to demonstrate that the Companies’ final proposal to SAG-AFTRA is almost identical to the Union’s proposal.

The chart validates the Companies’ position that they have substantially met SAG-AFTRA’s last proposal, including the topic of workplace safety. There is nearly no difference between the Companies’ final proposal and the Union’s proposal. The wages, additional compensation, pension and health contributions, vocal stress, stunt coordination, and transparency proposals are almost identical as summarized below:

9 Percent Wage Hike
The Companies exceeded the Union’s request for a 3% raise over each of the next three years by the Companies offering a 9 percent up-front increase, but only if a new agreement is ratified by December 1.

Additional Compensation

In the Companies’ final proposal, the Companies increased the maximum amount of Additional Compensation to match the amount of the Union’s request for a ‘contingent’ compensation buy out of up to $950. While the Companies have held to their position that there will be no ‘contingent’ compensation, the Companies have proposed a schedule of “Additional Compensation” that largely matches SAG-AFTRA’s last demand, including the total aggregated figure and the number of sessions necessary to earn that amount. This offer, too, must be ratified by December 1 to become effective.

Pension and Health Contributions

The Companies agreed to the Union’s request for a 0.5% increase and have agreed in principal regarding which of the benefit plans the money should be directed to.

Vocal Stress Issues

After the Union rejected the Companies’ proposals concerning modifying voice over sessions to mitigate any risk of vocal stress, the parties agreed on forming a joint cooperative committee to study vocal stress issues.

Stunt Coordination

The expired Interactive Media Agreement between the Companies and SAG-AFTRA already provides for a stunt coordinator to be on site for sessions that include stunts. While SAG-AFTRA made no new proposals in this area, it did seek further clarification about the use of stunt coordinators and both sides agreed to continue those discussions through the cooperative committee during the term of the new agreement.

Transparency

The Union’s proposal requested additional up front information when booking performers in video games to know more information (game title name, new role or a reprise of a previous role). The Companies enhanced their proposal to agree to provide the code name of the project and whether the performer will be asked to reprise a previous role. While SAG-AFTRA contends that the video game industry is the only industry not to require an employer to reveal the name of the project on which a performer is working, SAG-AFTRA has no such requirement in Television, Theatrical Motion Pictures or Animation agreements.

Summary

Except for the label on the Companies’ ‘Additional Compensation’ proposal, there are no significant material differences between the Companies’ final proposal and the Union’s last proposal. The wages, additional compensation, pension and health contributions, vocal stress, stunt coordination, and transparency proposals are almost identical.

“The Union negotiating committee’s continued public positioning of workplace safety as a rationale for striking these pro-Union Companies is disingenuous and paternalistic,” Witlin said. “SAG-AFTRA should allow its affected members to vote on the Companies’ final proposal and determine for themselves whether the semantic difference that does exist between “additional compensation” and “residual” is worth the costs of a strike.”