The two sides in the major league baseball negotiations resumed bargaining today after a two-day layoff, but 2 1/2 hours of discussion did not appear to narrow the gap on any of the major issues.
Representatives of the owners and players union will meet again Sunday, but both sides said they did not expect anything new to be put on the table. Assistants on both sides were working into the night on contract language for some minor issues that appear to be settled.
Although both sides said there still is time to reach an agreement, they agreed that time is running short. The players are set to strike Tuesday unless there is a settlement. "There were no new ideas on the major issues suggested by either side," said Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players Association.
"It was a reasonably good meeting, the tone was good," said the usually optimistic Lee MacPhail, chief negotiator for the owners as head of management's Player Relations Committee. "But I can't tell you we made any real progress on the major issues. We talked for a long time about the major issues, but neither side moved any from where they were."
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, in a press conference Thursday, made public a couple of possible solutions, then presented them and others in a package to both sides Friday. Neither side was enthusiastic about Ueberroth's proposals then and today they said they were not discussed. MacPhail said the issues Ueberroth's proposals dealt with were discussed, but not in the specific format the commissioner proposed. "Lee distanced himself rather quickly and rather markedly from his own commissioner yesterday (Friday)," Fehr said, "and they didn't come up today."
Each side seemed to think the next move was up to the other side.
"But I'm not bashful," Fehr said. "If we come up with an idea, they will hear about it. I'm hoping that someone between now and tomorrow (Sunday) will come up with something that might merit further discussion."
"I was hoping the Players Association might make some kind of proposal today," MacPhail said. "We feel we've made two major proposals in the last six weeks, and we're hoping to get one from them. Logically, the next move should come from them."
One major issue in the dispute involves the owners' contribution to the players' pension fund. The players traditionally have received one-third of the national television contract, but the owners have balked at giving that much in these negotiations. The players currently get $15.5 million and want $60 million.
The other major issue involves salaries. The players want eligibility decreased from the current two years to less than two years for exceptional players. The owners want eligibility raised to three years and a 100 percent limit on the size of increase an arbitrator can award.
The owners' proposal of last Tuesday involved an increase in the pension contribution but tied it to increases in salaries. The union rejected that proposal.
"The major league clubs continue to believe that the appropriate way to do business is to deny players rights that everybody else has -- that is, to quit and go work somewhere else when their contract is up," Fehr said. "That is their basic mode of operations and that is central to this dispute."
"We feel . . . strongly about salary arbitration," MacPhail said. "The clubs feel the system is not working. It's getting further out of whack each year . . . That is one of the cardinal points of our negotiating position."
Ueberroth, MacPhail and Fehr will appear on "This Week With David Brinkley" Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (WJLA-TV-7).