Players, owners take first step in negotiations

March 08, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

TAMPA, Fla. -- The long-awaited collective bargaining negotiations between baseball ownership and the Major League Baseball Players Association got under way last night, but the three-hour meeting was only a minor first step toward a new labor agreement.

Ownership negotiator Richard Ravitch met with union officials and a group of about 70 players to present a general outline of management's tentative revenue sharing arrangement and the salary cap that the owners hope will accompany it.

The players left disappointed that there was no specific proposal, but encouraged that Ravitch promised to share the financial data that was used to formulate the revenue-sharing agreement hammered out among the owners in January.

"I thought it was a good opening session," Ravitch said. "We explained to the players what our objectives are in the collective bargaining process. They asked some tough questions, and there were expressions of concern why we feel we need to change the present system.

"Our objective is to produce a system to provide ownership with cost certainty, the right to bargain for the aggregate cost of playing baseball and to achieve a system to enhance competitive balance."

The biggest expression of concern from union director Donald Fehr and the players, however, was over the lack of specifics in the presentation. They came from training camps all over Florida to hear what the owners had to offer, and no offer was forthcoming.

"What we had today -- though differing in some respects -- was a basic indication from Dick and a reiteration of what he said a year ago and what others said four years ago and eight years ago," Fehr said. "They indicated that what they want is cost certainty and everything else is flexible. We'll take them at their word and assume that includes the specifics of revenue sharing."

Ravitch said that the general nature of the presentation was no accident. He is trying to avoid making the same mistakes that led to protracted negotiations in the past.

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