Several top business and labor leaders announced formation yesterday of a special Labor-Management Group intended to provide a forum for working out joint business-union solutions to key economic and energy problems.
The high-level panel, to be headed by John T. Dunlop, a former secretary of Labor, parallels similar committees set up under the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations, which also tackled major economic policy issues.
However, unlike some of the earlier labor-management efforts, the new venture will not include representatives from the government -- in part to ensure the group's independence and to exempt it from public-meetings statutes.
Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO and chief labor representative, said both sides had "resisted" participation by the White House on ground that "experience has shown" the group had "worked best" that way.
The announcement comes as the administratin faces the start of critical collective bargaining negotiations involving the Postal Service and Conrail contracts.
Kirkland told a press conference yesterday that he does not expect the group to intervene in individual negotiations between unions and management as the Carter administration's wage-price program had done.
However, Exxon Corp. Chairman Clifton C. Garvin Jr., chief management representative, said there are "enough major economic problems . . . that Lane's group and our group are going to see some meeting of the minds" on key issues.
Similar panels during the Nixon and Ford Administrations hammered out joint labor-management proposals for tax incentives, controlling medical costs and policies on illegal aliens, but few ever were adopted.
However, a later panel broke up in disarray after labor members became perturbed at business opposition to the 1978 labor law "reform" bill, and United Auto Workers President Douglas Fraser bolted.
As is usual for such groups, the committee had not worked out a formal agenda, Dunlop said yesterday. But the panel issued a rare joint statement indicating it would emphasize reindustrialization, productivity and energy.
The panel leaders said the Reagan administration had been "informed" of the group's formation, but had not been invited to send representatives, in part to avoid requirements of the federal "sunshine" act which mandate public meetings.
The group said in its statement that the United States now faces a period when econoimic health is essential to society, and the national interest requires a "new spirit of mutual trust and cooperation" by both sides.
Garvin said that although there are some issues on which labor and management never could agree, there are other areas where he thinks some compromises might be reached.The group has no official standing, but is influential privately.
Besides Kirkland, labor members include Thomas R. Donahue, secretary-treasurere of the AFL-CIO; Lloyd McBride, president of the United Steel Workers; and three other leaders.
Kirkland indicated he also is likely to invite the UAW's Fraser and possibly Frank Fitzsimmons, president of the Teamsters' union.
Along with Garvin, business members include former Treasury secretary George P. Schultz, now chairman of Bechtel Group Inc.; Irving S. Shapiro, chairman of Du Pont Co.; and six other members.