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Pay cuts or layoffs loom for some Major League Baseball staff

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is moving to let teams lay off or cut the pay of major and minor league managers, coaches, trainers and full-time scouts starting May 1.

Manfred is suspending so-called uniform employee contracts that cover about 9,000 people, including general managers on some teams. He cited the inability to play games due to the national emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our clubs rely heavily on revenue from tickets/concessions, broadcasting/media, licensing and sponsorships to pay salaries," Manfred wrote in an email to teams on Monday. "In the absence of games, these revenue streams will be lost or substantially reduced, and clubs will not have sufficient funds to meet their financial obligations."

In the email, Manfred said individual teams will determine which employee will see a pay reduction or be let go. Several teams have said they will pay employees through May. 

Manfred's email stopped short of saying players could receive pay cuts. Any reduction in player pay would have to be negotiated with the player's union.

Professional baseball players are employed under a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the MLB Players Association. The current contract, which expires Jan. 15, states that teams "shall not reduce the minimum (player) salary below $555,000." Players who participate in the World Series receive additional pay whether or not they win, the contract states.

MLB wouldn't be the first professional sports league to reduce player salaries. Last week, the National Basketball Association said, if the entire season is canceled, players salaries would be reduced by 25% starting with their May 15 payments. NBA player salaries range from $50,000 to $40 million. The NBA has so far not announced plans to cancel the season. 

The National Hockey League began temporarily cutting league office employees by 25% this month in an effort to prevent mass layoffs during the season. The National Football League, which begins its season in the fall, hasn't announced pay specifics for its players or team staff.

MLB Rule 3(i) requires that uniform employee contracts, or UECs, must be signed by all managers, coaches, trainers and salaried scouts, and some teams include additional baseball operations staff.

"Pursuant to the terms of the UEC, the club's exclusive right to your services will remain in effect during the period of the suspension such that you will not be permitted to perform services for any other club," Manfred wrote. "I fully recognize the hardship that this health crisis creates for all members of the baseball community. Central baseball and the clubs are doing everything possible to try to minimize this impact for as many employees as possible."

Manfred said the Baseball Assistance Team charitable organization "is available to consider grant applications on an expedited basis for those facing significant and immediate financial hardship."

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