The push to merge Hollywood performer unions is heating up, with the American Federation of Televison & Radio Artists giving president Roberta Reardon a $42,000 stipend for the year to promote the combo with SAG.

A spokesman for the union said it’s the first time AFTRA’s taken such a step. Leaders of AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild serve without pay, though they are compensated for expenses.

AFTRA’s national board passed the resolution Saturday, citing the “extraordinary demands” placed on Reardon as a result of the time-consuming discussions, including a national “listening tour” with SAG prexy Ken Howard.

Resolution said Reardon’s efforts will “effectively prevent her from being available to seek regular employment as a performer” and she would therefore continue to suffer significant financial loss.

It also said the AFTRA constitution provides the authority for the board to vote funds to pay any loss incurred by any officer, board member or employee in carrying out its orders. The resolution said Reardon would be paid $3,500 per month for the rest of the year as a stipend and added that the stipend could be continued into next year.

The SAG Constitution explicitly bars officers and board members from receiving “any compensation for his or her services.”

AFTRA board also formally endorsed Saturday the continued efforts to combine the unions and asked for a committee report at the next board meeting on May 14 on specific steps to be taken toward a merger vote. Reardon predicted earlier this month that a vote on a merger would probably not take place until early next year.

Merger attempts in 1999 and 2003 were voted down by SAG members amid concerns about SAG losing its identity as an actors union and difficulties in merging the union-industry health and pension funds.

For its part, SAG’s national board voted Sunday to allocate $70,000 for its SAG-AFTRA Relations Task Force but didn’t specify how those funds will be used, other than developing a “framework” for merging.