Working past midnight on Tuesday evening, the Referee’s Union has reached an agreement with the NFL on two of the major issues preventing the officials from working NFL games.
As owners and mediators worked in unison, the NFLRA representatives issued a compromise to the League on the issue of increasing the number of officials under the employ of the NFL. Previously, the league had wanted to increase the number of active crews, which the refs had scoffed at, citing lack of job security as the league could weed out current refs that weren’t performing up to league standards.
Under the compromise, the league will implement a Developmental program, employing 21 officials that will be with mentored and trained by current active league officials. The developmental officials will not be members of the union, will not work any games and will not be eligible to sub in until trained to the level that the NFL expects officials to be trained.
In addition, the referee’s union has agreed that the pool of money to pay the existing officials will remain the same. When and if any of these developmental referees reach the standards and efficiency of an NFL Official, they will be considered for NFLRA membership. If membership is granted, the league will increase the money pool to accommodate the increase in salary.
These breakthroughs may indicate that the referees and the NFL are indeed very close in reaching a contract.
One remaining obstacle is the issue of the pension plans for the refs. The league refuses to budge on it’s stance of looking for all officials to go to a 401k, the NFLRA offered to have all new officials on a 401k and existing NFLRA members grandfathered in under the old pension.
The NFLRA on Tuesday offered a shorter-term grandfathering, but the owners are reluctant to make any compromise, though the league has brought in Benefits experts to help solve the impasse on the pension issues.
This news of the referees compromising comes as no surprise, as the Officials union’s demands have been met with rude dissent among owners, who consider the union’s demands as excessive given that, currently, the Referees are part-time employees of the league.