AFTRA Board: Retirement Fund -$23.4%, Pension Changes, SAG Praised (Even Rosenberg), Ad Contract Talks Continue March 31, “You Don't Have To Look Outside Of AFTRA For Your Next Job”

There was a flurry of bad and good news from AFTRA’s National Board meeting by videoconference between Los Angeles and New York this weekend:

— “Shelby Scott, who serves as Union Chair of the AFTRA Health & Retirement Trustees, reported that while the major global equity markets, including here in the U.S., were down approximately 40% in 2008, the AFTRA Retirement Fund limited its losses to about 23.4%.”

— “Despite this relatively positive performance, in order to prepare the Fund to withstand the uncertain economy, the Trustees have made two changes to the AFTRA Retirement Plan. First, as of May 1, 2009, the way pension benefits are calculated will change from a formula based solely on an individual’s earnings to one based on the actual contribution made by employers on behalf of an individual to the H&R Funds, by taking into account both the individual’s earnings as well
as the H&R percentage rate in the contracts under which the individual works.

“Second, as of December 1, 2009, the minimum annual earnings threshold needed to earn a pension credit for vesting, accrual, and participation purposes will increase to $15,000. The previous minimum was $7,500 a year. Even with this change, the new threshold for the AFTRA Plan is still lower than the threshold for most other similar industry plans. Scott observed, “The Trustees, both Union and Management, believe it is necessary to adjust benefits now to ensure the Retirement Fund protects participants in the future and is positioned to weather the immediate crisis in the American economy. But more important, this change in structure is designed to prepare for the shifts we believe are coming in how our members earn income under their contracts, and to factor in that over the past several years, our members have invested a lot of bargaining capital at the negotiating table to raise contribution rates in our contracts. ”

— “Scott reported that there are no changes to the Health Plan.” [As previously announced, Health Plan premiums will increase by 5% on April 1, 2009.]

—  “Mathis L. Dunn, Jr., Assistant National Executive Director for Commercials, Non-Broadcast/Industrials, and Interactive Media, and Chief Negotiator for the AFTRA Commercial Contracts, provided the National Board with an update on the progress of joint commercials contracts negotiations which began on February 23 in New York. The negotiations are scheduled to continue through March 31, 2009, the date the contracts are set to expire. Bargaining is progressing under a press blackout.”

— “In her address to the AFTRA National Board, President Roberta Reardon observed, ‘In a season of bad news, where even the entertainment and media industries are feeling the devastating impact of falling stock prices, wage compression, and high unemployment, AFTRA members have much reason for hope. From the Employee Free Choice Act to the Performance Rights Act, AFTRA members are inspired by a new administration in Washington. Organizing is our priority — particularly in a down economy — and the time is now. The diversity of work opportunities under AFTRA contracts is our strength: when one job area declines, another grows. Whether it’s scripted dramatic programming, videogames, audiobooks, broadcast news, a studio album, or a basic cable program, you don’t have to look outside of AFTRA for your next job.’ ”

—  “President Reardon applauded AFL-CIO President John Sweeney for his continued leadership and support, and she thanked Screen Actors Guild (SAG) President Alan Rosenberg, SAG Interim National Executive Director David White, and the SAG committee members who have been working with AFTRA members on the joint AFTRA and SAG commercials contracts negotiations.”

— “President Reardon also congratulated the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) on the union’s recent ratification of a successor Hollywood Basic Agreement.”

— “The AFTRA National Board will next meet on August 4 and 5 before the AFTRA National Convention in Chicago.”

The full text from the board, plus AFTRA President Roberta Reardon’s letter to members about the pension changes, and a FAQ about it, are continued on the next page. (more…)

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