SAG-AFTRA will strike against video game industry if new deal is not made

The union representing American screen actors has agreed to strike against the video game industry should a suitable agreement for improved working conditions not be met.
Image: SAG-AFTRA video games logo

SAG-AFTRA, the American union representing actors for film, television, and other entertainment, has unanimously voted to initiate a strike, should upcoming negotiations with video game companies not reach a deal amicable to the group. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of a strike authorisation at 98.32%, with 34,687 members casting votes.

To be clear, this does not mean that SAG-AFTRA are striking immediately, but will now do so if upcoming negotiations over the Interactive Media Agreement between the union and several video game companies do not reach a satisfactory outcome.

The next bargaining session is set to take place from 26-28 September 2023.

The companies involved in these negotiations include the likes of Activision, Blindlight, Disney Character Voices, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Take 2 Productions, VoiceWorks Productions, and WB Games.

SAF-AFTRA states that negotiations have been ongoing since October 2022, with the union seeking a variety of protections for actors working within the video games industry, including a retroactive 11% wage increase to account for inflation, on-set safety precautions, and protection against AI exploitation – a core concern that contributed to the ongoing writer’s and actor’s strikes in the film and TV industry.

In a statement, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said, “It’s time for the video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract.”

“The result of this vote shows our membership understands the existential nature of these negotiations, and that the time is now for these companies — which are making billions of dollars and paying their CEOs lavishly — to give our performers an agreement that keeps performing in video games as a viable career.”

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland remarked “After five rounds of bargaining, it has become abundantly clear that the video game companies aren’t willing to meaningfully engage on the critical issues: compensation undercut by inflation, unregulated use of AI and safety.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson representing the video game companies involved in the Interactive Media Agreement provided the following statement to GamesHub: “We will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that reflects the important contributions of SAG-AFTRA-represented performers in video games. We have reached tentative agreements on over half of the proposals and are optimistic we can find a resolution at the bargaining table.”

News of either a successful agreement or next steps for SAF-AFTRA and the video game industry should come to light in the following days. More details on the Interactive Media Agreement can be found on the SAG-AFTRA website.

Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran