Negotiators for the National Football League and the NFL Players Association recessed collective bargaining talks yesterday after three days of discussion produced an agreement that a joint subcommittee would study issues of health and safety.
But there was no other meeting of the minds as the negotiators broke off talks for at least two weeks. The contract between the league and the players association will expire July 15.
Jack Donlan, executive director of the NFL's Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, said the NFL needs time to prepare for the hearings that the National Labor Relations Board has ordered to be held. These hearings, before an administrative law judge in New York, will begin June 21 and deal with the union's request that the league make available copies of all television, radio and player contracts.
After that, the two sides will confer by telephone and set a date for resumption of negotiations, he said.
Since negotiations began in February, the players association and the management council have been separated by a fundamental disagreement over the union's chief demand, that player salaries be paid from a trust fund that would collect 55 percent of all money generated by the NFL.
The talks here this week did little to close that gap.
"With five weeks to go before the deadline, they give us a pay proposal, but the proposal had a lot of things in it that we had already told them were unacceptable," said Donlan, referring to a comprehensive financial package that the NFLPA placed on the table Monday.
That package set forth in detail the union's ideas for operating the trust fund and paying player salaries. It included a proposal that 70 percent of the money in the fund be allocated for base wages, based on years in the league, and 20 percent for incentive bonuses to reward performance on the field. The proposal would boost average salaries to approximately $150,000. The union estimates players average $83,000 now; management says the figure is closer to $90,000.
Donlan said the management council is willing to negotiate improvements in wages and benefits, but not a package that is tied to a percentage of gross revenues, as was the NFLPA demand.