This continues to be an interesting year for entertainment labor negotiations. New SAG/AFTRA ad industry contracts, SAG’s new television and theatrical contract and studio agreement, an extension of the Non-Broadcast/Industrial and Educational agreement, not to mention infighting and lawsuits. And now there’s a new item – SAG and AFTRA’s separate negotiations with the videogame industry over voiceover work.

The unions, which had been negotiating with the industry separately, appeared to achieve some parity between their deals, and made a joint announcement earlier this month that agreements had been reached. The deals, if ratified, would expire March 30, 2011, and would provide for the following improvements over the current contract (set to expire in December):

  • A 3 percent wage hike for SAG (to match AFTRA’s current deal), and another 2.5 percent increase April 1 for both unions
  • A 0.5 percent increase in the pension and health contribution rate for SAG members, and an additional 0.2 percent next year for both unions
  • The establishment of a $100 liquidated damage for failure to give notice of “vocally stressful” work, and agreement to develop a set of guidelines for conducting vocally stressful work
  • A cap of $125,000 on contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement and SAG Pension and Health funds for performers paid more than $125,000 by a single producer in a single year for work done on the same game franchise

Both the SAG and AFTRA boards recommended acceptance of the contract, with AFTRA giving the contract “an overwhelming and strong” recommendation. However, SAG’s membership apparently feels differently – SAG members who work the contract voted it down, 73-42. One reason for the rejection was the inclusion of “atmospheric” provisions that would allow employers to use actors to perform up to 20 voices, of up to 300 words each, at the daily base rate, which some members saw as a reduction from current pay levels.

SAG will now try to bring the video game companies back to the table to negotiate its deal, but the industry’s negotiators may require SAG to sweeten the deal before coming back. As for the AFTRA deal, a vote by AFTRA membership is currently underway.