No contract talks were held yesterday as members of the race track employees' union continued to strike Maryland's three major tracks, and Monday's racing at Bowie was cancelled.
Al Akman, president of Local 692 of the Retail Store Employees Union, said yesterday he could not conceive of the strike being settled quickly.
"If the tracks expect me to swallow the $2.50, $2 (a day) three-year package of increases they've offered," Akman said, "there 's no way there's going to be any more racing at this Bowie meeting."
Yesterday's program at Bowie was the first to be canceled by the strike. The Bowie meeting is scheduled to end Saturday, with Pimlico in Baltimore to open the following Monday. Laurel is the third track involved.
Track officials disclosed yesterday that their final offer to the union Thursday, when talks broke off, represented an increase of 16 1/4 per cent over three years. The union is demanding a 31.24 per cent increase, according to the tracks, or $6.71, $3.78 and $2.55 a day. "Our mathematics," Akman said, make it 26.5 per cent. The tracks consider $40 to be the median wage of a union employee, the union contends the figure is $34.
"Union's demands are ridiculius," Al Karwacki, general manager of Bowie, repeated yesterday. "Akman forgets we're not his food markets, where the increase in wages and benefits can be passed along to the consumer. Racing is a business regulated by government."
The local is seeking family-type health coverage, better sick pay benefits, vacation and holiday pay, and other fringe benefits.
"What the tracks don't say," Akman declared, "is that their offer of increased money is the whole package. There is nothing for improved benefits, as is normally the case, and this union's health and welfare agreements are pathetic."
Karwacki said the increase money could be used any way the union wanted. "Their health and welfare package can't be built to what they want it to be in one, two or three years. In previous negotiations with people representing the employees they always wanted the raises put in the pocket, not in benefits.
"That's one of the problems," Karwacki added. "There's a new union doing the negotiating and it has different priorities."
"At the rate of what they're offering," Akman countered, "it would take us 18 years to get a decent program."
Karwacki noted there was "nothing" available to the tracks in the way of more racing dates (the calendar is full) or more "exotic" bets. "We have two pools now on every race," he noted. "Even a 10th race wouldn't be beneficial to us.'
Akman said he was not surprised but certainly disappointed that there had been no movement from third parties yesterday aimed at getting negotiations under way again. He continued to be critical of Bowie, in particular, and its Canadian ownership as being distant in negotiations.