By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
5:21 PM EDT, September 17, 2012
As the impasse continues between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association, there have been no face-to-face talks between the two sides since the first day of September.
According to a recent memo from the NFL Referees Association negotiating committee to its membership obtained by The Baltimore Sun, no deal is in sight.
Which means, of course, that the replacement referees, who have drawn wide criticism for their struggles to keep up with the speed of the game and their lack of knowledge and implementation of the NFL rulebook, are here to say for the indefinite future.
Here's a full text of the memo:
To: NFLRA On-field Members
From: NFLRA Negotiating Committee
Let’s first acknowledge that whether we are working under game pressures on the field or the negotiating pressures of constructing a new CBA, we do the same thing – remain calm even in the face of adversity. We are not focused on "winning" but are committed to doing what is right and fair.
So, let’s recap where we are. There are basic differences in what the NFL and NFLRA see as fair on three issues: (1) overall compensation; (2) administrative issues (e.g. dispute arbitration, personal conduct policy, additional officials, etc); and (3) retirement benefits.
Our position has been from the beginning, and dovetails with what the League told us in the beginning -- that the 2006 CBA negotiations were fair, and should be used by both sides as a framework for completing a new CBA without incurring labor disputes. The key elements of our mutually agreed upon CBA in 2006 included the following:
* Overall officiating compensation (excluding retirement benefits) was $12.5 million in 2005. In 2011, it was $18.6 million, an increase of about $1 million per year since 2005.
* The 2006 CBA contained provisions that the NFL could hire additional officials (above 120), provided the League added proportionally to the overall compensation pool for each official added (they’ve done this – the staff is at 121 right now).
*The 401(k) benefit plan for officials (in effect since 1994) would continue with a League match of up to $3,750 per year per official (unchanged from 2001).
* The defined benefit (DB) pension (in effect since 1974) amount was increased by $65 per month for each year of an official’s service, capping at a maximum of 20 years, a reduction from the 22-years maximum specified originally in 1974.
We have been negotiating with the League since October 2011. The last face-to-face meeting was held on Saturday, September 1, and resulted in the following exchange:
* The NFL offered to add $1 million per year over a 7-year term to total compensation (including retirement benefits)
IF the NFLRA would agree to freeze and terminate the existing DB pension plan and move immediately to their proposed 401(k) type defined contribution (DC) plan.
*The NFLRA countered by offering to reduce by $1 million the overall compensation (excluding retirement benefits) "ask" over a 5-year term
IF the League would negotiate its retirement benefits demand and other issues.
The League refused to discuss our counter-offer; instead, returning to its "take it or leave it" position.
So, how far are we off? Let’s take a look at the numbers to see:
* Based upon the September 1st discussion, if both sides agree to put $1 million each per year on the table for overall compensation (let’s leave out the retirement benefit for now), then we are only $250,000 apart for the 2012 season. We are also asking for yearly increase in overall compensation of about $1 million per year (just like the 2006 CBA) over the next five years. The NFL wants yearly increases to average less than $500,000 per year over the next seven years.
* The retirement benefits issue is a lot more complicated. Here are the FACTS about the League’s proposal:
* The NFL paid into our pension plan $5 million per year from 2001 to 2005, and $5.3 million every year between 2006 and 2011, with the exception of 2010, when they paid $6.3 million.
* By the League’s own calculations, ending our current DB benefit today would cost them $5 million per year for several years but declines to $0 by 2016.
* The NFL’s modified 401(k) DC plan proposal cuts their contribution from over $40,000 per year per official under our existing DB plan to only $12,750 in 2012 ($1.6 million in total) and rises to only $18,250 by 2018 ($2.3 million in total).
* Here are the FACTS about the NFLRA’s current retirement benefits proposal:
* Keep the current DB plan for those officials now on staff, and raise the monthly benefits by $55 per month (less than the 2006 CBA amount)
* All new hires would come on board under the League’s proposed DC plan, which would involve an NFL contribution amount of $38,500 per year for each new official.
* When you do the math, the total cost of the NFLRA split system retirement proposal is estimated at around $7 million in 2012 (about the same cost as the NFL’s proposal), and the annual cost to the NFL would decline over time to around $5 million per year (almost the same amount the League has spent every year on our current DB plan over the past 10 years).
SUMMARY: All of this comes within the context of a reported 50% increase in NFL revenues from 2006 to 2012 and another huge increase beginning in 2014 with the new TV contracts. How can what we are asking for seem unfair in the world of NFL economics? If we got EVERYTHING we are asking for (that would cost each team less than $100,000 per year), we would still be getting less than we got in the 2006 CBA.
The NFLRA Negotiating Committee remains willing to meet with the League to discuss and reach a middle ground on a new CBA so we can get back on the field. Our goal is to reach a fair agreement for both sides, like it was done in 2006.