Reduced pay, but no layoffs, for Nationals employees

While Major League Baseball and its players continue to spar over how to restructure salaries for the 2020 season, club employees around the sport are beginning to learn they won’t be paid in full this year.

The Nationals joined the list Tuesday, informing all full-time team employees they will see their salaries and work hours reduced by a modest amount.

According to a source familiar with the club’s decision, all full-timers in both the baseball and business sides of the organization will take pay cuts that range between 10 percent and 30 percent while also reducing work hours by the same amount.

The reductions will be tiered based on the individual employees’ regular salary. Thus, the pay cuts and reduction in work hours for the team’s highest-paid employees will be 30 percent, while the cuts and work reduction for the lowest-paid employees will be 10 percent.

Benefits, including health care, will not be affected by these changes. Though no employees officially are being furloughed, the reductions in pay and work hours serve as something of a partial furlough.

Prior to Tuesday’s announcement by the club, Nationals employees knew only they were getting full pay and work through May 31. They now know what they can expect to receive for the rest of 2020. Baseball operations employees will be paid until their contracts expire Oct. 31. Business-side employees will be paid through Dec. 31.

No full-time Nationals employees have been laid off as a result of the global pandemic, the source said.

This decision comes as several other MLB clubs make similar - and in some cases harsher - moves. Some clubs have already furloughed employees. Many have instituted reductions in pay.

Soto-HR-Swing-Blue-WS-G5-Sidebar.jpgAll of this is playing against the backdrop of ongoing negotiations between the league and the MLB Players Association, who to date have not been able to agree on a system for determining players’ salaries for a proposed 82-game season that could start in early July.

Players want the league to stick with the late-March agreement between the two sides that guaranteed prorated salaries based on the number of games played in 2020. MLB now says that plan only would’ve been viable if fans were allowed to attend games, something that appears highly unlikely at this point.

Last week, the league leaked details of a new proposal that would’ve asked players to agree to a 50-50 split of any revenue in 2020. Union leaders immediately shot down that idea, saying it was akin to a salary cap, something they have adamantly opposed for decades.

MLB returned with a different offer Tuesday, according to multiple reports. The league now is asking players who make the most money to accept the largest pay cuts while players who make the minimum salary accept smaller pay cuts. The immediate reaction from the union suggested this plan has little chance of being accepted, either.

The two sides, who also are trying to hash out details for safety precautions and protocols to play the abbreviated season, have perhaps the rest of this week to strike a deal in order to ensure the resumption of spring training camps around June 10, which would then allow the regular season to begin around July 4.

If the differences are resolved and the season progresses as hoped, the Nationals will need to decide where to hold their second round of spring training and the actual games. That decision has not yet been made, according to the source.

Some in the organization prefer to hold camp and all home games at Nationals Park, allowing all players, employees and their families to set up shop in Washington and stay here through the season. But that would require not only a lifting of D.C. stay-at-home order, which currently runs through June 8, but the progression of that process to what has been labeled Stage 3, with outdoor events finally opened for up to 250 people. A special exemption by Mayor Muriel Bowser might be necessary for the Nationals to hold workouts and games at Nationals Park before the rest of the District enters Stage 3.

Others in the organization believe it makes more sense to hold workouts (and possibly even the start of the season) in West Palm Beach, Fla. Nationals Park has only one field, two bullpens and one underground batting tunnel, and thus might only be usable if the team splits itself up into multiple groups and staggers workouts throughout the day and evening. The Nats’ spring training complex, meanwhile, has six practice fields, a large bullpen area with 12 mounds and a large outdoor batting cage.

MLB has said it hopes all 30 clubs are able to play the season in their home ballparks while traveling to road games only within its same geographic region - the Nationals would only face National League East and American League East opponents under the plan - but has backup locations available for those who can’t safely play in their hometowns.

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