[Editor's note: On Monday, the NFL Referees Association issued a statement accusing the NFL of abandoning the bargaining process, an of never intending to "work toward a fair agreement." The NFL has responded. The full text of the statement from NFL spokesman Greg Aiello to PFT appears below.]
In addition to the two recent sessions with the federal mediator, we have had nine other bargaining sessions with the union since last October. In our first meeting with the FMCS, the mediators recommended a process to bring the negotiations to what we hoped would be a successful conclusion, and both sides agreed to follow that process.
In yesterday’s session, the NFLRA ignored that process, abandoned positions that it had previously taken with both us and the mediators, and made economic demands totaling millions of additional dollars that they had agreed to drop at earlier sessions. Given the NFLRA’s retreat from the process to which it had agreed, it only took a short time to conclude that the union’s proposal was not intended to move the negotiations forward.
We did not begin to contact potential replacements until well 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. We obviously could not be put in a position of the union calling a strike once the season had begun. The officials we are hiring are professionals who officiate games at a high level and have backgrounds similar to current NFL officials. We have every confidence that the officials who we bring on will do a fully credible job, and will manage our games efficiently and effectively enforce the playing rules.
We were clear from the outset that we have a high regard for our game officials and believe they should be paid well. Our seven-year proposal (through 2018) offered healthy annual compensation increases of between 5 and 11 percent. For example, in 2011 a first-year official made an average of $78,000. Under our proposal, he would make more than $165,000 by the end of the new agreement. An official who was in his fifth year in 2011, and earned an average of $115,000 last year, would earn more than $183,000 in 2018 under our proposal. And an official in his 10th year, who earned an average $139,00 last year, would earn more than $200,000 by the end of our proposal. Officials that qualify for post-season games, or are referees, would earn substantially more.
We also offered to set up a defined contribution retirement arrangement under which each official would receive annual contributions starting at $16,500 and increasing to almost $23,000, plus a wide range of investment opportunities. We offered expanded reimbursement for medical insurance costs, and other new and increased compensation, including agreeing to the union’s demand that we pay its members $300 to get on one conference call with the commissioner at the start of the season.