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AFTRA Members Okay Net Code

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Members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) have voted overwhelmingly to approve a new three-year Network Television Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, commonly called the "Network Code."

The major AFTRA contract -- bargained with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) -- covers performers on daytime dramatic serials, late-night entertainment programs, sports, game, talk, and awards shows, syndicated programs, and other AFTRA TV shows, with the exception of prime-time dramatic programs.

The talks covering prime-time dramatic shows, conducted jointly with the Screen Actors Guild, are currently underway in Los Angeles with the AMPTP.

The new three-year pact, effective retroactively to Nov. 16, 2004, will remain in full force until Nov. 15, 2007. AFTRA and industry negotiators reached agreement on Fri., Oct. 29, after three weeks of bargaining in New York. AFTRA members' votes were received and counted in late December.

AFTRA members' earnings under the Network Code -- considered the union's flagship pact -- are approximately $400 million annually.

Consistent with deals achieved by other entertainment-industry unions, the newly ratified agreement includes a significant increase in employer contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Plans (H&R Plans). The combination of higher employer contribution rates, increased earnings caps, and the reallocation of supplemental pension contributions is expected to yield a 25% increase in dollars flowing into the AFTRA H&R Plans during the life of the agreement. That includes about $18 million in additional healthcare contributions over the course of the three-year contract. Providing additional resources to the benefit plans was the union's number-one priority at the bargaining table.

In addition, the agreement includes a 3% increase in minimums in the first and third years, and a 2.5% increase in the second year. The pact also expands coverage for stunt coordinators and choreographers, with additional protections for serial performers at the end of their contract cycles.

"As we move into the new year, with our flagship Net Code television negotiation completed -- achieving impressive gains -- and now well into bargaining on our prime-time contract, AFTRA can take real pride in the accomplishments of the last year," stated AFTRA's national president, John Connolly, in a press release. "What we cannot do, however, is rest, if we are to meet the complex and multiplying challenges faced by our union and our members. As well as successfully bargaining contracts, AFTRA must also stand up for the rights of our broadcast journalists and performers in an increasingly restrictive and hostile legal and regulatory environment, advocate for comprehensive healthcare reform in the face of the worsening crisis in healthcare affordability, and finance and organize programming in cable, Spanish language, and other arenas where employers continue to undercut industry standards of fairness and equity.

"We must also continue our campaign to challenge the monopoly power of corporate media in defense of diversity of ideas and images and the American people's right to news honestly reported without fear or favor," Connolly continued. "In order to get the job done, our focus in 2005 must be on coalition building and working collaboratively and effectively within the labor movement, within our communities nationwide and internationally, and within our own diverse membership of performers and broadcasters throughout the country."

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists -- affiliated with the AFL-CIO -- is a diverse union representing nearly 80,000 professional broadcasters and performers nationwide. Its members work in news and entertainment programming on television and radio, as well as in the sound recording industry, commercials and industrials, and newer technologies such as interactive games, Internet production, and CD-ROMs.

-- Roger Armbrust

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