Umpires lower demands, but leagues 'discouraged'

April 18, 1995|By New York Times News Service

Major-league umpires lowered their salary demands yesterday, but not far enough for the American and National leagues to consider ending their lockout of the umpires.

"We're very discouraged," said Robert Kheel, the leagues' negotiator, adding that the proposal was "grossly excessive and does not form the basis of optimism for an early agreement."

The leagues locked out the umpires Jan. 1 after their labor contract expired and they are prepared to begin the season next week with replacement umpires.

Making a counterproposal to the offer the leagues made last Thursday, the umpires proposed a salary scale ranging from $90,000 for umpires in their first year in the major leagues to $265,000 for umpires with 30 years or more in the majors. The scale that was in effect for the past four years ranged from $60,000 for rookies to $175,000 for umpires with 25 years of service.

After initially offering a cost-of-living increase, the leagues last Thursday proposed a 10 percent increase across the board.

Richie Phillips, the umpires' lawyer, responded to that proposal yesterday by citing its $6,000 raise for rookie umpires "over an eight-year period" and saying it "exhibits a lack of respect for umpires, their profession and their contribution to the game."

Phillips said the umpires' new proposal represents a 40 percent increase in the salary scale over the previous scale, down from 53 percent in the umpires' previous proposal. He called the demands "modest," but Kheel disagreed, saying the front-loaded nature of the increases makes the package far more expensive than Phillips portrays it.

Instead of the salaries rising in steps over the four-year term of a new agreement, Phillips said, the entire raises take effect immediately. That method, Kheel said, would give the umpires more money in the first two years and less in the last two, rather than a steady, gradual increase over all four years. His calculations, he added, show the umpires' proposal would amount to a 56 percent increase, not 40 percent.

Phillips said the differences in the other major economic areas -- retirement pay, daily expenses and compensation for special events -- could be bridged.

"But he won't move until we get the whole thing done," Phillips said of Kheel. "Instead of taking those issues off the table now, he wants to leave those hanging out there to give him some flexibility when we're dealing with the salary issues."

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