NEW YORK— Just four days before baseball players were scheduled to strike, the sides weighed their next moves Monday in the drawn-out negotiations for a new labor contract.
Owners made small steps to the union in their latest offer Sunday, and it appeared the next move was up to the players’ association, which didn’t immediately respond to the new proposal.
The sides met once Monday afternoon, and it was possible they would meet again at night, spokesmen for players and owners said. With the sides bickering over how to divide billions of dollars in the next four seasons, baseball remained faced with its ninth work stoppage since 1972
“My sentiment hasn’t changed — I’m an optimist by nature,” New York Yankees player representative Mike Stanton said. “There are proposals from both sides and concessions from both sides. Albeit small, a concession is a concession.”
Negotiators for players and owners were not available for comment after the day’s first session.
Owners want vastly increased revenue sharing and a luxury tax to slow the spending of high-payroll teams. Players have agreed to revenue sharing increases, but proposed a lower level than management and asked to phase in the changes, which management opposes.
On the luxury tax, owners want higher tax rates and lower thresholds than players. Owners regard the union’s proposal as ineffective and players think management’s plan would act like a salary cap.
Owners increased the tax threshold Sunday from $102 million to $107 million in the first three years of the new contract and to $111 million in 2006. The portions of payrolls above that figure would be taxed, using the average annual value of 40-man rosters plus about $7.7 million per team in benefits.
Players have proposed thresholds of $125 million next year, $135 million in 2004, $145 million in 2005 and no tax in the final season of the deal — another big point of contention.
Owners gave proposed tax rates of 35-50 percent, depending on the number of times a team exceed the threshold, while players have proposed rates of 15-40 percent.
As for revenue sharing, owners proposed that teams share 36 percent of their locally generated revenue, up from 20 percent this year. The teams’ previous plan was 37 percent, and the union moved up to 33.3 percent in its Saturday proposal.
The owners’ plan would transfer $263 million annually from baseball’s richest teams to its poorest, using 2001 revenue figures for analysis. Because the union’s proposal phases in changes, the players’ proposal would transfer $172.3 million in 2003, $195.6 million in 2004, $219 million in 2005 and $242.3 million in 2006.