Companies Disappointed that Union Insisted on Strike, Not Over Money But Over Terminology


LOS ANGELES, Oct. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — The chief negotiator for Video Game Companies today said the Companies called upon the leadership of SAG-AFTRA to put the Companies’ final proposal for the Interactive Media Agreement to a vote of the members, rather than continue to strike over terminology.

“The Video Game Companies did everything in their power to reach agreement with union leaders, offering a money package almost identical to SAG-AFTRA’s last demand,” said Scott J. Witlin of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, the chief negotiator for the Video Game Companies. “We are greatly disappointed that SAG-AFTRA refuses to allow its members to have a democratic vote on our proposal and decide if the significant money on the table is acceptable to them,” he said.

“We believe SAG-AFTRA performers should be allowed to look at what we offered and compare it to the union’s last demand – and see that the terminology and other minimal differences are not worth striking over,” he said.

“The strike is going to hurt the SAG-AFTRA performers that these Companies value,” he said. Witlin noted that the Companies review of industry data revealed that less than 25% of video games utilize unionized workers and that even SAG-AFTRA’s own analysis revealed that at least 40% of the top-selling titles feature non-union talent. Witlin added, “By having signed the prior Interactive Media Agreement, these Video Game Companies have demonstrated that they value performers more than those companies that have not signed an agreement with SAG-AFTRA.”

Witlin said the one significant difference between the parties is the terminology the Video Game Companies are putting on the “additional compensation” they have offered. SAG-AFTRA is insisting that this money be called “contingent compensation.”

When you compare the SAG-AFTRA contingency prepayment structure to the Companies’ additional compensation structure the two are almost identical, he said.

Witlin said the Companies cannot adopt SAG-AFTRA’s contingent payment structure for the relatively few SAG-AFTRA performers who work on a game because it would be unfair to the vast majority of the employees who spend exponentially more time making games and are not similarly paid.

“The strike will have little to no immediate impact on the ability of fans to buy and play the video games they love as the majority of upcoming games already are in production – and the union is not permitted to strike most of the games due to the nature of the “No Strike Provisions” of the interactive media agreement,” Witlin said. “The sad part is that the very performers who these Companies value – and who are impacted by the union decision to strike – never got a chance to vote on the Companies’ proposal,” Witlin said.

The Companies’ final offer this week included an immediate 9% wage hike and additional compensation to performers of up to $950 per game based upon the number of sessions a performer works on a particular game. This offer was conditioned upon a December 1 ratification by SAG-AFTRA members. Together with the wage hike, this package could increase overall compensation by up to 23% for typical sessions, and in some cases more.

Witlin said the Companies and SAG-AFTRA had collectively made progress before the union strike on issues of vocal stress, stunt coordination and transparency in their negotiations.

“We value our performers and their dedication,” Witlin concluded. “Many of the Companies and people on our committee are the best evangelists for the use of SAG-AFTRA members in this industry. It is unfortunate that SAG-AFTRA rushed into a strike that will immediately and directly take money out of their members’ pockets.”

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