Largely sidestepping the new media issues that stalemated contract negotiations nearly two years ago, representatives of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) announced today (Sunday) that they had signed a new, three-year agreement with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), subject to approval by the unions' boards and membership. In a joint statement, SAG President Ken Howard and AFTRA President Roberta Reardon said that they had focused on securing a significant increase in employer contributions to the unions' separate health and retirement funds. Howard called the 10-percent increase "a vital achievement," while Reardon noted that it would "protect the needs of performers." The unions' statement said that the boost in employer contributions "represents the largest dollar value increase to the plans ... since the plans were founded and is the largest percentage increase to the plans in more than two decades." The new contract, due to take effect beginning next July 1, also calls for a 6 percent increase in wages over the three years at a rate of 2 percent per year. For its part, the AMPTP said that the early agreements "ensure that production can continue without disruption for everyone who depends on this industry."