Despite some recent progress, both business and labor still aren't doing enough to clamp down on inflationary wage and price increases, Labor Secretary Ray Marshall said yesterday.
He told reporters at a briefing that business efforts to restrain prices are "not enough" and suggested that organized labor "might exercise a more aggressive leadership" to hold down wages.
But he praised Bethlehem Steel for announcing Monday that it would raise prices just 3 percent for the rest of the year and the AFL-CIO for endorsing "the main thrust" of the administration's voluntary anti-inflation plan, even if it won't promise to act first in curbing wage increases.
"I think they (unions) might exercise more aggressive leadership . . . but I think they're in a difficult position," Marshall said.
He said it was "unfortunate" that the press had emphasized the negative in reporting last month's statement by the AFL-CIO refusing to promise wage restraint before seeing a slowdown in price increases. "It might have been better to emphasize the positive," he said.
He said there have been some "encouraging" corporate decisions on prices, but added, "It's not enough . . . I think we've got to have more moderation than we've had so far."
In a move that is not likely to please postal unions now engaged in contract bargaining with the U.S. Postal Service, Marshall also said the government, as an employer, should "set an example" by exercising restraint on wage settlements.
"We need to do everything we can if we're going to be going into the private sector to ask them to hold the line on wages and prices," he said.
Postal union officials have complained that the administration is holding them hostage for its anti-inflation program.
In response to criticism of a proposed Labor Department rule governing minimum salaries for business managers by the government's Council on Wage and Price Stability, Marshall indicated some changes may be made before the rule becomes final.
The council charged Monday that the proposal could result in managerial pay increases as high as 46 percent in the fast-food, motel and related industries. But Marshall said the proposal is aimed at preventing employers from using the "subterfuge" of managerial titles to avoid paying overtime, rather than at forcing an increase in managers' salaries.