In what seems on the surface to be a clash between the board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the trustees of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, the trustees on Thursday said that the written opinion by the boards of AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild that found little difficulty -- and much to recommend -- about merging the H&R plans, is not necessarily shared by the trustees. Even though the union's review of the matter included a written opinion by Jani Rachelson, co-counsel to the AFTRA H&R fund, the trustees said, they "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." In fact, the trustees maintained, merging the two union's plans would represent a significant hurdle. "The merger of pension and health funds as large and divergent as the AFTRA and SAG plans raises complex and unique financial, legal and benefit issues which can only be addressed through a comprehensive analysis performed by the funds," the trustees said. "No position has been, or will be, taken by the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds Trustees or its co-counsel until such time as a comprehensive feasibility study is performed." In the past, efforts to merge the two talent unions have collapsed under the weight of opposition to proposals to merge the H&R plans -- but most of that opposition has come from SAG members, not AFTRA.
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