SAG-AFTRA Picket At Insomniac Games Draws 400-Plus Protesters – And Bagpipes; Companies’ Rep Responds: Update

David Robb
Deadline

UPDATED, 5:24 PM: The chief negotiator for video game companies being struck by SAG-AFTRA ripped the union today for not allowing its members to vote on the firms’ offer. “It is inexplicable that SAG-AFTRA will not permit a democratic vote on a contract that currently offers its members an immediate 9% wage increase and Additional Compensation of up to $950 per game,” Scott Witlin said in a statement. “How will the members feel when they lose that offer because SAG-AFTRA did not permit a timely ratification?” Read his full statement below.

PREVIOUSLY, 1:43 PM: More than 400 SAG-AFTRA members and their supporters picketed Insomniac Games in Burbank today as the actors strike against selected video game companies ended its fourth week.

Carrying signs and chanting “Actors! On strike!” the picketers said they’re determined to stay out as long as it takes to get a fair contract. And by fair, they mean a contract that includes some type of residuals for video game work.

“We’re staying out as long as it takes until the game producers decide to come back to the bargaining table and be reasonable,” said actor Phil LaMarr, a member of the union’s negotiating committee.

As cars passed the long line of picketers, many honked in support. And as a motorcycle cop ordered the strikers to stay on the sidewalk, a bagpipe briefly struck up a refrain from “Amazing Grace.”

The main strike issue is residuals for successful games, but the companies steadfastly have refused to establish any type of backend residuals formula. Both sides’ proposals 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.

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

“The SAG-AFTRA proposal has two options for game producers,” the companies say on their website. “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.”

Which begs the question: If the backend option is so onerous that no one would use it, then why not give it to the union and end the strike?

The answer appears to be that the companies are determined not to allow any type of residuals — optional or not — to become part of the collective bargaining agreement.

Here is today’s full statement from Witlin, chief negotiator for video game companies:

“After a month without being permitted to vote on the Companies’ Comprehensive and Enhanced Final Offer, it is not surprising that members want to see the strike come to a conclusion.  Nothing would please the Companies more than to have the talented SAG-AFTRA members back at work.  It is inexplicable that SAG-AFTRA will not permit a democratic vote on a contract that currently offers its members an immediate 9% wage increase and Additional Compensation of up to $950 per game.  How will the members feel when they lose that offer because SAG-AFTRA did not permit a timely ratification?

“Further the agreement is not “decades old.” The most recent agreement was renegotiated in 2011 and the concepts that we have put on the table is a ground breaking new form of compensation for performers.  What SAG-AFTRA is asking for is replicating a decades old structure that does not fit this modern industry.”

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