After a four-year hiatus from contract negotiations, Actors’ Equity and the League of Regional Theaters sat down yesterday to hammer out a new agreement.

The last contract expired in 1991, but both sides–in recognition of harsh economic times– agreed at that time to extend the contract through Feb. 28.

Equity is coming to the table not only looking for increases in salary, but also higher contributions to the health plan and the inclusion of overtime payments for rehearsals.

The union is also intent on improving the working conditions for stage managers, who also are covered under the contract.

LORT, on the other hand, has come to the table with a number of rollbacks including an increase in rehearsal hours and an expansion of non-pro ratios–the number of non-professionals they can hire in relation to a specified number of union members.

In addition, the producers want to eliminate seasonally employed actors and stage managers from the health plan and are seeking the unilateral right to employ aliens in productions without consulting Equity.

Both sides will sit down to talks in Los Angeles for one week. If no agreement is reached, they will sit down for another in New York in mid-February.

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