After 11 months of negotiating, the SAG-AFTRA and 11 different game companies have reached a tentative deal that is expected to see voice actors for video games head back to work. The strike started back in October 2016 and this week a tentative agreement has been reached. Among the 11 video game companies that SAG-AFTRA voice actors are protesting include Activision, EA, and Warner Bros.
This strike was the longest in SAG history, with the tentative arrangement being reached on Saturday morning. The new terms of the deal will include a bonus structure giving the voice actors an additional payment that must be delivered no later than the game release date that is calculated using the number of sessions an actor worked on a game. The lowest payment is an extra $75 for the first session an actor works and goes up to $2,100 per session after ten sessions.
SAG-AFTRA tried to get the voice actors a backend payment deal that would give a "full-scale payment" for every 500,000 units sold for a maximum of four secondary payments if the game sold 2 million copies, but that was shot down during negotiations. The new deal does keep in place the previous agreement that sees SAG-AFTRA represented voice actors paid at least $100 per hour plus benefits.
"This is an important advance in this critical industry space. We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members' key concerns," SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. "The courage of our members and their fortitude these many months has been admirable and I salute them. We are always stronger together."
The new deal also requires the game companies be more transparent with voice actors during negotiations. The deal would require the game studio to tell the actor details such as the genre of the game, codename, and if the game is based on an existing franchise. The voice actors must also be told before signing on if 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."
Another new tenant of the agreement would see the publishers agree to work with the union "on the issue of vocal stress." This apparently stems from the publishers seeking to fine performers for being late or distracted during recording sessions. The game firms also wanted the SAG-AFTRA agents to "submit performers for low-paying 'atmospheric voice' sessions or face fines, and a possible revocation of their union franchise." Game studios also wanted to be able to use its own staff for voice acting work outside of the SAG-AFTRA agreement. It's unclear if any of these caveats are part of the new deal.
The deal will be reviewed and potentially confirmed during a board meeting in October. Only about 25% of video games use union actors. Voice actor Crispin Freeman, the voice of Winston in Overwatch, said of the strike, "We negotiated with them for 19 months in good faith. It's the longest negotiation SAG-AFTRA has ever done. It was the last thing we wanted to do, but they left us with no choice."