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IATSE Offering Animators New Industry Deal

The Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839, disclosed further details Wednesday of its new industry contract, including a proposed increase in contributions for freelance animators so they can more easily qualify for health insurance, pensions and other benefits.

The deal, which still requires members' approval, would affect more than 2,000 animators and affiliated optical electronic and graphic artists represented by Local 839.

The agreement was first announced about two weeks ago, when IATSE members ratified the Hollywood Basic Agreement, a separate contract that has substantially similar terms to the one now being offered to animators.

"It is a good contract for all parties, and I expect overwhelming approval from the membership," Local 839 president Kevin Koch said of the animation deal, which would run from Aug. 1-July 31, 2009.

Koch was assisted in the negotiations by Local 839 business representative Steve Hulett, IATSE vps Matthew Loeb and Michael Miller and IATSE International Representative Steve Aredas.

On the companies' side were executives from Adelaide Prods., Cartoon Network, Columbia, the Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. Animation.

"Everyone in this negotiation was professional and cooperative," Hulett said. "I give credit for this to everyone from IATSE and the producer representatives, especially Carol Lombardini from the AMPTP."

Along with wage gains, the contract increases contributions to the Individual Account Plan by 0.5% in both the second and third year of the contract while also creating a 25-cent-per-hour increase in contributions to the Defined Benefit Pension Plan.

Contributions to the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan also will go up an additional 25 cents per hour, allowing health-care premiums to continue to be completely covered by employers.

Union officials said the gains for freelance employees were especially notable.

"The producers were responsive to our arguments," Loeb said. "They especially understood the need to find a formula for freelance animation writers to qualify for health and pension benefits, which required a nearly 50% increase in contributions on their part."

Jesse Hiestand writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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