The Carter administration yesterday set down "final" procedures for companies and unions seeking to follow its new wage-price guidelines -- at the same time broadening its surveillance to include 700 more corporations than before.
The new rules, published by the Council on Wage and Price Stability, now seek formal compliance plans from companies with as little as $250 million in sales -- not just those with $500 million or more, as officials once planned.
Barry P. Bosworth, the council's director, told reporters that, although the agency still plans to concentrate on firms with $500 million or more in sales, the broader reporting rules would give it a better handle on the economy.
At the same time, Bosworth Disclosed that, beginning April 1, the administration will publish regular lists of corporations and unions which have violated the guidelines, as part of its new effort to spotlight inflationary actions.
The new regulations, contained in a simple, 14-page document to be printed in this morning's Federal Register, also tighten procedures for obtaining exceptions and hardship exemptions from the guidelines.
The changes will:
Limit the grounds for obtaining an exception to the guidelines to six categories -- acute labor shortages, tandem contracts, tradeoffs in work-rule changes, profit margin limits, unusual business conditions or gross hardship.
Restrict the ability of corporations to get around the guidelines by rejuggling their internal organizations -- by requiring firms to declare almost immediately how they are structured and how this structure compares with those of previous years.
Discourage firms or unions from seeking advance council approval of their price increases or wage settlements except in the case of a company expecting a federal contract or a pay settlement made contingent on White House approval.
Set down firm procedures for companies and unions to appeal the agency's decisions on individual wage or price increases, and rules for enforcing the guidelines in case of violations.
Bosworth also disclosed that the council's primary indicator for detecting violations of its price guidelines will be the wholesale price index published each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
He said agency officials would be checking from now on to see whether producers' prices for any given product increase more rapidly than the standards allow. Violations will show up by March, he said.
The continual publication of lists of violators will be part of the council's new procedure for a crackdown. The name of each violator will be made public 11 days after the council rules on the violation.
The administration also plans to begin denying federal contracts to corporations that violate the wage or price guidelines. That portion of the program is being run by the Office of Management and Budget.
In discussing the new procedural rules yesterday, Bosworth told reporters the council decided to limit consideration of exceptions and advance approval in part because it did not have the staff to handle so many cases.
"People are taking the program so seriously -- as if it were mandatory controls -- that we don't have the staff to handle it," the wage-price chief said. "We're not willing to consider cases that are trivial."
Bosworth also indicated the council felt it could not develop rules affecting some business or labor situations until it gets a better idea of how to handle them -- primarily by investigating them as they come up.
He said the agency plans to publish a guidebook within a few days on how to meet its regulations. It also plans to issue separate regulations for the banking and insurance industries.
Along with the price-reporting rules, the council also asked companies with 5,000 or more employes to file a description of their methods of computing pay increases. Both pay and price reports should be filed by Feb. 15.
The rules yesterday included one straightforward definition of a gross inequity under which firms may obtain an exception.They said: "A gross inequity is any situation that, in the council's judgment, is manifestly unfair."
While the proposals asking firms to file compliance plans will apply to companies with revenues of $250 million or more, the council also issued more detailed requirements for corporations with sales of $500 million or more.
These larger firms also are being asked to send the council copies of the form 10-K they submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission. And some industries which are allowed more leeway will file more detailed reports.
The administration's general price guidelines call on firms to hold their 1979 price increases half a percentage point below their average for 1976-77; some companies are allowed to use a profit-margin standard instead.
The wage standards ask workers to hold contract settlements to 7 percent or less this year, excluding the cost of maintaining previously won pension benefits and the first 7 percent of any increase in health benefits.
Carter established the new program in October in an effort to spur business and labor to slow wage and price increases "voluntarily." So far, businesses have been rushing to comply, while labor has been lukewarm to the plan.