NFLRA Disputes NFL's Account Of Why Labor Talks Broke Down
The NFL Referees Association today issued a statement disputing the NFL's characterization of why talks for a new CBA broke down and saying that the NFL's contention that the NFLRA had threatened to strike was false. The NFL yesterday said the league locked out the 121 game referees and officials after the NFLRA made additional economic demands in a bargaining session under the auspices of mediators from the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service on Sunday. But the NFLRA said today that the economic issue that ended the talks was not the referees' request for pay increases but the league's proposal to change the pension plan that has been in place since '74. "The NFL’s statement fails to note that the first, last and only proposal from the NFL regarding the Game Officials Pension Plan was to freeze and thereafter terminate the Plan," the NFLRA said. "The league’s proposal is a massive takeaway in the overall economic package at play in the negotiations."
The NFLRA also said that the league's statement that it started to look for replacement refs only after the "union advised us in March of its intention to take a strike vote and told us of its plan to drag out the negotiations until late summer" was false. The NFLRA in its statement said, "The NFLRA has never threatened to strike. After repeated references by the NFL during negotiations regarding its plans to obtain replacement officials the NFLRA briefed its members at its Annual Meeting on April 21, 2012. No strike vote was taken at the meeting. In fact the NFLRA’s directive to its membership was to prepare for the season and to perform each and every task assigned to them both before and after CBA expiration. This continues to be the position of the NFLRA."
NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said in an e-mail that the NFL was working on plan to bring the sides together for a deal on Sunday involving a transition from the old pension plan in which the referees would retain all the benefits under that plan. But the referees "did an about-face" from their agreement in an earlier bargaining session and "made a proposal that was entirely inconsistent from what they agreed to" earlier, which derailed the talks for a new CBA.