Despite business' call for a clamp-down on workers' wage increases, American firms have told the Carter administration they want the government to let them give employes bigger pay hikes in 1980 then they got in 1979.
Although that viewpoint is not unanimous, it is the dominant theme in a sampling of corporate comments sent to the Council on Wage and Price Stability on proposed changes in the administration's wage-price guidelines.
While all of the business comments have not been submitted yet -- more are expected before the council's deadline today -- the bulk of those sent in by U.S. corporations fall into one of two categories.
Businessmen either want the White House to liberalize the present wage guideline by raising it to 8 percent from 7 percent now, or else want officials to allow larger pay hikes next year for workers not covered by COLA (cost of living allowance) clauses.
Either, the proposals would enable employers to provide for larger pay hikes next year and still remain within the guidelines.
The pleas for more liberal pay standards ranged from the giant National Association of Manufacturers and The Business Roundtable to the chairman of the General Electric Co. and an executive of the Scott Paper Co.
But several other big corporations -- and a few state and local government officials -- also joined in. The council also received responses from other organizations and some private citizens, but these had no central theme.
The views expressed by the business organizations came as a surprise to some observers. Traditionally over the past few years, the position of many business leaders has been to blame execessive wage boosts for inflation.
But the prevailing view in the letters to the council seemed to be that unless corporations and state governments were allowed to pay their workers more next year, they likely would lose them to their competitors.
For example, Edson D. de Castro, president of Data General, a Massachusetts computer firm, wrote that in order to maintain high productivity, "we must make our industry attractive to our current and future employees.
"As a result," he told the council, " . . . Data General's average wage (or) salary increases may average well in excess of" the 7 percent pay guideline. He said because competition is "intense," the trend will continue.
The council raised the pay question in a series of issue papers it published early last month outlining options it is considering for changing the guidelines. It asked for public comment on the proposals.
The agency said then it was considering adopting a two-year wage standard that would allow a cumulative 15.5 percent pay hike for last year and this year combined -- equivalent to a 1980 pay standard of about 8 percent.
It also served notice it was seeking some way to allow workers who were not covered by COLA clauses in 1979 to achieve equity with those who were. Workers under COLAs fared better than the others under current rules.
The issues arose after labor leaders complained that workers were being made to suffer unduly when asked to hold their wage increases to 7 percent or less in the face of a 13.2 percent inflation rate.
At the same time, administration officials have acknowledge privately that the current guidelines tend to discriminate against workers not covered by COLA clauses -- usually those not members of labor unions.
Although organized labor has been pushing for a liberalization of the current pay guidelines, business has been expected to continue its public calls for a further clampdown on wage increases.
Several of the proposals suggested by business groups and individual firms in their answers to the council's inquiries would add an estimated 2 to 4 percentage-points to the wage increases allowed under guidelines.
Among those seeking a liberalized pay standard was Reginald H. Jones chairman of the General Electric Company, who said his firm had become increasingly concerned about the equity of treatment for those not covered by COLAs.