Deal still requires formal ratification

HOLLYWOOD — After more than a year of negotiations, AFTRA and the five major record labels have reached a tentative agreement on a new sound recordings contract.

AFTRA made the announcement Monday and said the deal still requires formal ratification by its national board and membership along with approval by the AFTRA Health & Retirement Trustees. Both sides have agreed to make no further comment pending a report to the AFTRA board.

Accord came seven weeks after both sides agreed to call in a federal mediator to help break several deadlocks that had developed in the negotiations.

The union’s current sound recordings contract, which covers about $150 million in member earnings annually, has been extended by more than a year since its original expiration of June 30, 2002. The two sides began bargaining in May 2002.

More than 200 high-profile recording artists signed letters of support last year for the union’s efforts to expand artists’ rights in the contract in such areas as health insurance coverage, pension credits, the right to acquire and market their recordings, “unreasonably long contracts” and revenues from new technologies.

AFTRA’s health plan has tightened eligibility and cut benefits since July 1; as of last November, the value of its retirement plan assets were $280 million short of value of vested benefits, prompting AFTRA to ask the IRS for a 10-year extension on the 15-year requirement to amortize investment losses (Daily Variety, Aug. 4).

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