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HOLLYWOOD — After negotiating for more than a year, AFTRA and the record industry met this week with a federal mediator in hopes of reaching a deal on a new contract.

An AFTRA spokeswoman said reps for both sides met Tuesday and Wednesday at a neutral site in Gotham but had no further details.

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.

Musicians back union

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. The missives cited issues such as maintaining 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 (Daily Variety, Aug. 4).