AFTRA extends network code contract

TV, Radio org agrees with networks on one-year extension

Facing an intense negotiating season, leaders of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have agreed with the four networks and their production companies to a one-year extension of its network code contract until Nov. 15, 2011.

The performers union made the announcement Friday during its national board meeting in New York. The national board’s move triggers sending out the extension for ratification by membership meetings in coming weeks in the five major AFTRA Locals of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington/Baltimore.

AFTRA noted that the extension will enable it to focus its resources on prepping for seven weeks of joint negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild in the fall on primetime series work. AFTRA dsiclosed Friday that the start date for those talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers will be Sept. 27.

The AFTRA network code contract expires Nov. 15 and is the union’s largest contract with more than $400 million in annual earnings. AFTRA leaders had been indicating in recent months that the time demands on the primetime deal could force them to ask the networks for an extension of the current net code pact, which covers mostly non-primetime work such as soaps, talkshows and gameshows.

AFTRA leaders are also facing the looming expiration of the sound recordings contract on June 30. Negotiations on that deal will launch Wednesday.

The extension will include a 2% increase in minimum program fees, including background actors, and a 0.5% increase in employer contributions to the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds – effective Jan. 1 and specifically devoted to the Retirement Fund – which will bring the total contribution rate to 15.6%. Terms covering programs made-for and reused in new media will also be extended for one year and remain unchanged.

“This extension accomplishes three important goals for AFTRA members,” said AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon. “It secures critical increases in minimums and health and retirement benefits in the middle of a tough economy. It moves this contract out of our heavy 2010 negotiating cycle so we can conduct attentive Network Code wages and working conditions in mid-2011. It permits AFTRA members and staff to devote our resources to preparing for the upcoming joint negotiations with Screen Actors Guild on the AFTRA Exhibit A and SAG TV/Theatrical contracts.”

Current programs covered by the net code include “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “The Price is Right,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “American Idol,” “Survivor,” “20/20,” “Deal or No Deal” and “Late Show with David Letterman.”

AFTRA agreed earlier this year to resume joint bargaining with SAG on the primetime master contract, which expires June 30, 2011. AFTRA had split apart from SAG in 2008 and negotiated its deal separately with the AMPTP.

Since then, nearly all new primetime shows have opted for an AFTRA deal. SAG and AFTRA share jurisdiction in primetime on shows shot in digital formats.

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