Negotiations between the National Football League and the players association reached a stalemate again yesterday, with each side demanding a counterproposal. But it appeared unlikely any of the season openers this weekend would be prevented by a strike.
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA, said rank-and-file union members at the 28 NFL clubs were infuriated with the management offer presented here Wednesday, and that some were holding team meetings to discuss possible job actions.
The NFLPA leadership is discouraging such action for now, he said. "Instead of having to stir them up, we're having to rein them in. They're frustrated by the lack of progress in bargaining. Our feeling is that whatever we do, we should do it together," Garvey said.
In a conference call Wednesday night, the union's executive committee voted to authorize a strike between the second and fourth games of the season if a settlement is not reached.
Meanwhile, in New York, the executive committee of the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, discussed the possibility of calling off all games this weekend if it appeared there would be selective strikes. But Jack Donlan ,the council's chief negotiator, said later that the owners would stand by their pledge not to lock out the players.
"The owners considered it outrageous to have the union summarily reject their proposal," said Dennis Curran, their labor relations counsel. "It is a comprehensive, expensive proposal, with over $600 million in new money. They expect the union to come back with a counterproposal."
The Management Council computes the new money figure by adding the compounded 15 percent average annual increase in pay costs over the five-year life of the offer to an estimated $40 million in benefit increases and an estimated $126 million in a new bonus plan.
Under that plan, retroactive to 1977, each NFL player would receive a $10,000-a-year bonus for every year in the league for a maximum of $60,000 within 15 days after an agreement is reached. But the bonus would be reduced by 25 percent for every game missed because of a strike. From 1983 through 1986, players would be credited with $10,000 in severance pay, payable the year after their last NFL season.
The NFLPA has demanded that the league divert 55 percent of its gross income to a trust fund that would pay player salaries on a seniority-based scale, with performance incentive bonuses. It termed the new offer "an insult."
Meanwhile, in Seattle yesterday, 54 members of the Seahawks signed a petition demanding the reinstatement of NFLPA player representative Sam McCullum, a wide receiver cut this week. The petition contended McCullum was cut because of his union activity, although General Manager John Thompson denies this.
Dan Silverman, regional director of the New York office of the National Labor Relations Board, said the NLRB is expediting its investigation of a union charge of an unfair labor practice in McCullum's being cut, and is considering going to court over the issue should it find the charge valid.
The Seahawks are scheduled to hold a team meeting today to decide on a course of action. McCullum was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "I don't want the players to (strike)."
In Baltimore, the Associated Press said the Colts held a 30-minute team meeting following practice yesterday but took no strike vote. Player representative Mike Ozdowski said there was no sentiment to initiate a job action, but that the situation would be reevaluated should the Seahawks vote to strike.
Washington Redskins players, among the most pro-union in the league, seemed more resigned than ever yesterday to the eventuality of a strike.
"Everyone feels it's going to come down to a strike sooner or later," said guard Russ Grimm. "We are trying to give them enough time to negotiate, but if the offers keep going like yesterday's, there's no chance we'll settle.
"I don't think they are going to give in on percentage of the gross. But at least they can give us an offer that comes close. What's terrible about this is that no one wants a strike."
Said tackle George Starke, "I guess they don't think we are very hungry."