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AFTRA: Same refrain

Guild, recording biz continue contract talks

AFTRA and the recording industry have been continuing negotiations over a new recording contract, with the current contract’s expiration now extended for more than a year.

AFTRA has confirmed that negotiations have remained open and discussions have continued since December. “Neither side is prepared to issue any statement at this time,” the union said.

The comments were the first issued in seven months since AFTRA and the labels recessed their negotiations in December amid speculation that a deal was imminent. The first contract talks began in May 2002 and were suspended two months later to allow time to analyze data regarding health insurance for recording artists.

The current contract has remained in force during the interim. Pact, which has been extended indefinitely from its June 30, 2002, expiration, generates annual earnings of about $150 million for 15,000 members and covers performances by singers, music groups, narrators, choruses, actors and Broadway casts.

The union has stressed insurance and pensions issues at the talks and contended that any artist bound to a label contract should receive a minimum payment that guarantees continuing health coverage for the artist during the term of that contract. AFTRA has also sought improved pension credit provisions similar to those in other AFTRA contracts.

As of three weeks ago, soaring costs forced AFTRA members to start paying premiums for the first time on AFTRA health insurance, with a $250 quarterly charge. Members also saw the 12-month earnings requirement boosted from $7,500 to $10,000.

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