NFL and NFLRA settle on backup officials, remain apart on pension plan

9/27/12 in NFL   |   IvanRogers   |   1352 respect

After hearing week after week about the NFL and NFL Referees Association’s failed attempts to derive a common ground for negotiations so as to finally lift the league’s ongoing lockout on the NFLRA officials since summer, at last we have some good and a glimmer of hope for more serious negotiations to come.
The NFL and NFLRA have come to terms on a minor issue within the negotiations concerning the use of backup officials. The league had initially intended to hire 21 full-time backup officials – constituting to three full crews (with seven officials each) to be on the ready to fill-in for recently fired regular officials, who have failed to satisfy the NFL’s expectations. 
But the NFLRA and NFL have arrived at a compromise that the additional 21 officials will be recruited as part of a developmental training program. The developmental program is aimed at training the backup officials and acquainting them with the working of the NFL.  The backup officials will be permitted to work alongside the regular officials throughout the week but will not officiate games or step-in for recently fired NFLRA officials. The backup officials could be promoted on merit but for the time being they will not be considered as part of the NFLRA’s regular officials group.
The NFLRA had previously strongly opposed the idea of hiring backup officials since they expected the NFL to allocate a portion of the union’s for this purpose. Moreover, the NFLRA suspected that the on-hand availability of the backup officials will make it that easier for the NFL to fire the regular officials it claims to be incompetent at their job.
The recent agreement was announced after the NFL and NFLRA met again Tuesday and continued the negotiating process past midnight, so as mark some sort of progress.
“When you take a group of officials who have a collective experience of 1,500 years off the field,” said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith soon after the negotiations, “and you replace them with a group of replacements who don’t have that experience, our players know that the workplace today is less safe than it was with the real officials.”
The NFL owners of the over 9 billion worth industry have lately been more involved in the negotiations process which speaks volumes about the efforts put in by the federal mediator to derive a conclusion.
However, the recent success cannot be marked as a real progress made on the negotiations since the NFL and NFLRA still remain apart on the key issue of the defined-benefit pension plan, as the season heads into Week 4. The NFL isn’t willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars annually per regular official by way of the pension plan, especially considering the NFLRA officials aren’t even full-time referees yet. The NFL instead appears inclined to switch the pension plan over to a 401(k).
But the NFLRA is unwilling to handover a pension plan it sacrificed so much for without a fight – thus resulting in the prolonged regular officials lockout.
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