The United Mine Workers' bargaining council recessed late yesterday without voting on whether to submit a proposed contract to the union's 160,-000 striking members.
UMW President Arnold Miller told reporters as the seven-hour meeting broke up that it was being recessed until specific contract language could be worked out and submitted to the council. He said this could take "several days" and other sources said it could take as long as a week.
Union and Industry bargaining teams reached tentative agreement Monday on terms of a contract to end the record-long UMW strike, which is now in its 65th day, but council members yesterday were given only summaries of the terms.
Approval by the 39-member council, composed of the union's top national and regional officers, is necessary before rank-and-file miners can vote on whether to accept the negotiated package and thus hind the strike, which is beginning to threaten energy supples in some Eastern states.
There have been reports of staff opposition within the council to key provisions of the pact, but Miller emphasized that the contract was not rejected.
"They have not voted either way," he told reporters outside UMW headquarters, which was closed to the press. "We still have a tentative agreement," he said, adding that further meetings with industry bargainers were planned to work out the precise language.
The proposed contract includes wage and benefit increases over three years that would total nearly 37 percent more than the miners now receive, but it is also laden with labor stability guarantees that the industry demanded, including penalties for wildcat strikes and a restructing of the union's financially stricken health and welfare funds.
The 37 percent increase in the tentative pact represents the highest for any major bargaining agreement in the last few years, surpassing the 1976 contract for autos (34 percent) and 1977 contracts for steel (30 percent) and communications (31 percent).
It also appears to exceed the administration's goal of reducing inflation, which seeks to limit wage and price increases to below the average rate for the past two years, which was 7.5 percent for the miners. The proposed settlement contemplates a wage increase of 30 percent over three years, for an average annual hike of 10 percent.
As outlined yesterday by Miller, the contract calls for a $2.35 hourly increase in wages, which now average $7.80 without overtime.
The contract would guarantee payment of health and retirement benefits, cut off during the strike because previous wildcat walkouts had depleted the union's benefit funds. But the price the union bargainers would pay for benefit guarantees is steep.
They agreed to abandon the longstanding, jointly administered medical and pension systems -- a major legacy of the late John L. Lewis and a pacesetter among union welfare plans in favor of a company-run system. They also agreed to medical deductibles of up to $275 per family per year for families of working miners (less for retirees), with $50-a-year deductibles for drugs. Medical care was free before cutbacks were ordered last summer.
In another major concession, they agreed to require miners to reimburse the health funds for benefit revenues lost during wildcat strikes unless company officials were found by arbitrators to have provoked the walkout, in which case the company would pay the cost. After 10 days a wildcat striker's benefits could be cut off.
Three years ago, the bargaining council twice rejected the Miller-led negotiating team's proposed offer during a three-week strike, but finally relented when Miller urged the council to let the members have their say.
The 1974 contract, containing a 54 percent increase in wages and benefits over the previous contract, was only narrowly approved by the union's members after an extensive proratification campaign by UMW officers.
The UMW mines roughly half the nation's coal, down considerably from previous years, but the strike was beginning to take a toll in some Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states that are heavily dependent on coal for energy. Stockpiles for some utilities had dropped to about 30 days' worth, although the national supply still averaged about 75 days' worth, according to government and industry officials.