AFTRA’s top exec to get big pay bump

Unions say salaries akin to DGA, WGA West,WGA East

AFTRA’s top exec Greg Hessinger will see a 62% jump in annual salary to $405,270 if the proposed SAG-AFTRA merger goes through.

The hike will match Hessinger’s pay with that of SAG CEO Bob Pisano during an interim period when both will share their duties as chiefs of the newly created Alliance of Intl. Media Artists. The merger agreement, which must be approved by 60% of voters in both performers’ unions, calls for both to be employed under terms that achieve parity.

The issue of Hessinger’s salary — currently at $250,000 — was brought up by an AFTRA member during questioning of the exec during an informational meeting last week at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City for AFTRA members. SAG and AFTRA then made the disclosure through “Partnership for Power” Web site as part of an updated Q&A to persuade members to back the deal, which will be voted on next month.

Hessinger was promoted to his current post in mid-2000, while Pisano was tapped as SAG’s top exec in September 2001.

The unions said the salaries for Pisano and Hessinger fall within the range of salaries paid to top execs at the DGA, WGA West and WGA East. It also said their pay is significantly below that of exec directors of the three major U.S.-based pro sports unions and the top exec at the Airline Pilots Assn.

The latest Q&A also asserted that both unions health and pension plans are “in crisis” and asserted that combining the plans — which can only be done after the merger is approved — will make it easier to meet eligibility requirements and maximize benefits.

Opponents of the merger have complained that the unions’ staff and elected leaders have been vague on specifics such as how the health plans would be combined. The national boards of SAG and AFTRA have requested that the trustees of the plans start the process of combining the plans with the goal of moving forward once the merger is voted up.

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