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Another pay fray for SAG?

Trio given one-year contracts worth a combined $700,000

With Screen Actors Guild members about to be hit up for a dues increase, SAG’s elected leaders have quietly signed its three top execs to deals with golden parachutes — if they’re fired by new exec director Doug Allen.

Acting national exec director Peter Frank, deputy national exec director Pamm Fair and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland have each been given one-year contracts worth a combined total of about $700,000. Deals go into effect Jan. 8, Allen’s first day at SAG, with each receiving the full year’s compensation if Allen decides to opt for his own team and dismisses the trio.

Even though all three have been “at will” employees working without a contract, SAG’s national board approved the deals at last month’s plenary in executive session.

SAG had no immediate response to a request for comment Wednesday. But the deals are likely to provide opponents of the dues increase with ammunition for their contention that SAG’s been paying too much in exec salaries in recent years.

The key reasons put forward during SAG’s board discussion for giving new contracts to Frank, Fair and Crabtree-Ireland was to reward them for their loyalty and incentivize the execs to remain at SAG in the wake of a long string of departures of other top SAG execs.

Frank, who’s been designated to become chief administrative officer, is expected to be paid around $300,000 while Fair and Crabtree-Ireland will receive about $200,000 each.

At the same October meeting, SAG’s leaders approved a referendum on a dues increase that would boost receipts between $5 million and $7 million annually for the guild’s $55 million budget. SAG said the funds are needed for improved processing of residuals checks — often delivered several months late — along with bolstering organizing, a new tech department and financing research and campaigns for the upcoming TV/theatrical and commercials contracts, both of which expire in 2008.

Earlier this year, SAG reached a confidential settlement with former CEO Greg Hessinger, who had sued SAG after being fired a year ago with more than three years left on a four-year, $1.6 million deal. The suit stemmed from SAG’s refusal to pay out the balance of his contract, based on the legal contention that unions couldn’t be liable for paying fired execs with employment contracts.

SAG also reached a confidential settlement with Bob Pisano, who was receiving more than $400,000 a year, when he ankled early last year and became president of the MPAA.

During his tenure, Pisano signed five of his top execs — including Fair, Frank, general counsel David White and deputy national exec directors Sallie Weaver and Seth Oster — to two-year deals that expired last June. By that time, White and Weaver had departed; Oster ankled a few months later.

In recruiting an exec director to replace Hessinger, SAG leaders first insisted candidates agree to work without a contract, but later changed that approach due to lack of interest among candidates. Allen, who’s currently second in command at the National Football League Players Assn., agreed in October to a three-year deal.

Allen’s appointment was approved unanimously in what was a rare show of unity by the oft-fractious SAG national board. The move by SAG came three months after Allen was passed over for the top exec slot at the WGA West; David Young was promoted internally, instead.

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