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AFTRA health and pension plan trustees take union to task

February 2, 2012 | 11:47 am

In what could be a move by employers to throw some cold water on the planned merger of Hollywood's two actors unions, trustees for the health and pension funds of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have issued a statement challenging some legal opinions cited by the unions.

The trustees of AFTRA's health and retirement plans, which include representatives from labor and management, on Thursday took issue with a "feasibility review" document the unions posted on their websites this week. Those cited the opinion of various lawyers -- including Jani Rachelson, co-counsel of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds -- stating "there are no legal impediments to merging the plans." AFTRA-LOGO1

The feasibility review was part of an overall merger package the boards of the two unions recently approved in a bid to gain more leverage in negotiations with studios, which in the past have successfully exploited divisions between the two groups to gain the upper hand in contract talks. Members of each union will vote on the merger in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, the board of trustees for the AFTRA health and pension funds said the feasibility review did not represent the opinion of the board.

"The Board of Trustees did not request or authorize this opinion of Fund co-counsel and had no prior knowledge of this letter before reading the posting on the websites,'' the trustees said in a statement. "Although there is no doubt that planned mergers are legally permissible in appropriate circumstances, the merger of pension and health funds as large and divergent as the SAG and AFTRA plans raise complex and unique financial, legal and benefit issues which can only be addressed through a comprehensive analysis performed by the funds."

Details on how the unions' respective health and pension plans will be combined will be addressed only after members approve a merger in upcoming referendum.

A spokeswoman for AFTRA declined to comment on the matter. 


SAG and AFTRA open up about merger plans

SAG board votes to approve merger plan

SAG-AFTRA merger means some dues will rise, others fall

-- Richard Verrier